There's no pretty way to sum up what happened at Welsh-Ryan Arena last night. Northwestern and Purdue managed to shoot a combined 31.7% from the field, turn the ball over 23 times, and crack 60 points each only in the second overtime. Northwestern, with 2:45 left in the second half, lost starting center Alex Olah and was forced to rely on undersized center Nikola Cerina to manage Purdue's AJ Hammons, who posted 17 points and 10 rebounds. Hammons would turn the ball over 7 times, mostly on traveling calls, but his presence was made apparent in the depleted Northwestern bench turning briefly to Chosen Forward Aaron Lieberman in the extra sessions.
The refereeing in this game was, to be succinct, brutal. Numerous hacks went uncalled (on Hammons at the end of OT1), charges went the other way (looking at Olah's 5th), and you couldn't guess at any point what would be a foul and what wouldn't.
A timely three by super-sub Tre Demps knotted the game at 43 in regulation, Purdue went about 22 minutes with only 2 field goals in the second half and overtimes, and the Wildcats somehow managed to find a win. It can be expounded on at a later time how this season isn't going anywhere for Northwestern, but a win on the purple court is only a positive for Chris Collins' club, which has now won two consecutive and three of their last four heading into
an eventual curbstomping a showdown with #10 Iowa on Saturday in Evanston.
For Purdue, curious decisions by Matt Painter at the end of regulation and early in the second OT. Why not get the ball down low to Hammons? By the end of regulation, everyone knew that eventually Cerina would foul out. And that he did, collecting his fifth just :42 into the second OT. Hammons only went 3-10 from the field on a night where Northwestern frequently dropped a second man into the post to harass him, but his 11-17 performance from the free throw line surely merited the ball late in the game. A positive for the Boilermakers has to have been their shooting from beyond the arc, where the Johnson brothers--Ronnie and Terone--combined to go 5-10 (the team went 8-21, no thanks to 2-7 shooting by Kendall Stephens) and vaulted Purdue into the lead in the second half.
Overall, the game just rated as a Big Ten donnybrook where a basketball game happened to break out. Credit Northwestern for finding a way to win, if we must, and especially to their defense, which may not be a total fluke at this point. The 'Cats now sit at 3-4 in the Big Ten, above (if briefly) Ohio State, Indiana, and Illinois. Let us enjoy this, huh?
The Boilermakers will need to regroup, and likely are an NIT team at best, with the meat of their schedule still to come. At 3-3, with games vs. Wisconsin and at Michigan ahead, the road only gets tougher for Purdue. Finding wins and holding serve at home will be crucial to keeping this young team hungry and developing for the future.
Northwestern held a moment of silence before the game, and a number of students painted their bodies to show their solidarity with the Purdue community. h/t @sippinonpurple
But, more importantly, there's no equating a basketball game with what happened in West Lafayette on January 21, 2014. Please don't take the fact that I wrote of these two unrelated incidents together to mean that I would in any way trivialize the events which occurred in an engineering building on Purdue's campus. As I watched, though, it was obviously with the heavy heart of knowing the tragedy on Purdue's campus and knowledge of how affected their fans must have been.
For the excellent work at Hammer and Rails, please go read their piece, "Profiles in Badassery", a brief summary of senior TA Andrew Boldt, a bright young man whose life was senselessly cut short yesterday.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Andrew was an Electrical Engineering student from Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He served as an undergraduate TA in the Electrical Engineering department at Purdue. He had interned at John Deere before returning to Purdue, and was a senior in his second year as a TA.
Thanks to Travis Miller for his efforts at memorializing the victim, not delving into speculation on the shooter. Prayers, thoughts, and all condolences to Andrew Boldt, his family, and all those affected in the Purdue University community.
We often rip into each other here at Off Tackle Empire, be it Spartans and Wolverines, Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers, Wildcats and Illini (OK, not really), or Hoosiers and Boilermakers, among others. But in the wake of tragedy like this, we all reach out to support our conference brethren.
Boiler Up, Purdue. The Big Ten stands with you.