No. 24 Purdue, Northwestern look to bounce back
Both Northwestern and No. 24 Purdue will be looking for rebound performances when they meet Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., although it will be on much different scales.
Purdue (12-7, 7-5 Big Ten) is coming off a tough 61-60 loss at Maryland on Tuesday and has lost two of its past three games, but overall the Boilermakers have trended upward over the past month.
Northwestern (6-9, 3-8) will attempt to snap an eight-game losing streak that followed an impressive start to the season.
The Boilermakers had won four games in a row, three of which came on the road at then-No. 23 Michigan State, Indiana and then-No. 15 Ohio State, before a home loss to conference-leading Michigan on Jan. 22.
Following the defeat against the Wolverines, Purdue responded with a lopsided 81-62 win over then-No. 21 Minnesota before taking another setback against Maryland.
"You feel like a million bucks when you make one more play than somebody, but you feel when awful when they make one more play than you do," Purdue coach Matt Painter said after the Tuesday game.
Still, Purdue has a lot to feel good about heading into the Northwestern matchup and the stretch run of the season.
The Boilermakers are in good shape for an NCAA Tournament bid. They feature one of the conference's best big men in Trevion Williams (15.8 points, 9.9 rebounds per game) and have seen freshmen Zach Edey, Brandon Newman and Jaden Ivey develop into scoring threats and defensive contributors.
Even better, Purdue is expected to get back second-leading scorer and outside sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic (11.1 ppg, 45.6 percent from 3-point range) against Northwestern after he missed the previous three games due to COVID-19 protocols.
Painter just hopes his team can clean up mistakes that were made against Maryland, most notably 15 turnovers and missed opportunities.
"We just can't have that many empty possessions," Painter said. "Our guys just have to play with a better feel than they did (Tuesday). If we do that, we'll put ourselves in a great position."
While Purdue has ascended over the past month, Northwestern has taken a nosedive.
Following a 3-0 start to league play, the Wildcats dropped each of their next six games by double digits. The skid reached eight games after a three-point loss at Penn State and then a 64-56 home defeat vs. Rutgers on Jan. 31.
"It's always a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "I'm going to stay optimistic with it. I don't think we are far off. I think we are playing competitively. It'd be different if we just rolled out here and were getting blitzed every night."
Northwestern is led in scoring by Miller Kopp (13.7 ppg), Chase Audige (12.1 ppg) and Pete Nance (11.5 ppg).
For the Wildcats, the mission is simple -- try to earn a victory and go from there.
"We just want to get one to get some momentum," Collins said. "We're not going to worry about winning five, six, seven in a row. Just try and win one."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2021