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Northwestern stumbles in 2nd half, loses to Purdue

Northwestern coach Chris Collins talks about center Alex Olah being dominated by Purdue’s big men.

Chicago Tribune

Purdue and its animated legion of fans made themselves right at home Saturday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, handing Northwestern its seventh straight loss, 68-60.

The Boilermakers (14-8, 6-3 Big Ten) used a 21-4 run to start the second half to erase the Wildcats’ 29-28 halftime advantage and win their third in a row.

“We made eight straight shots, and that was the difference in the game … that run right there to start the second half,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “They never recovered from that.”

Purdue’s big men — 7-foot A.J. Hammons (16 points, 9 rebounds) and 7-2 freshman Isaac Haas (10 points in 11 minutes) — dominated Northwestern. Alex Olah ran into early foul trouble for the Wildcats and finished with four points and one rebound in 23 minutes.

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Painter felt the loyal fan base following the Boilermakers helped his team succeed on the road.

“It was great,” Painter said. “We had probably the best atmosphere we’ve had at our last home game (a win over Indiana). Then to be able to have this kind of following to the Chicagoland area, it’s huge. Anytime you can gain some momentum and give them something to cheer about … you can definitely build on that when you play well and have that kind of fan base.”

Northwestern coach Chris Collins was disappointed in his team’s lack of focus and energy to start the second half.

“The game was lost really the first six minutes of the second half,” Collins said. “That was a real crucial stretch. I didn’t like the way we came out of the locker room in terms of our intensity defensively. And Purdue is a good team. They are very physical and they are strong kids. If you don’t match that level of intensity, or if you don’t match that energy, they can pound you.”

The Wildcats (10-11, 1-7) were led in scoring by Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh with 18 points apiece. But Purdue outrebounded the home team 33-28.

“This is unacceptable,” Demps said. “That (start to the second half) lost us the game. That just can’t happen. And it starts with the older guys like myself.”

Northwestern lost its previous five games by an average of 3.4 points. Collins is torn between sympathizing with his players and pushing them to do better.

“It’s a give and take,” he said. “I mean, you want to keep their spirits up. You want to be positive because we have another game (at Nebraska) in two days. But you also want to show them where we could have done some things better.”

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fmitchell@tribpub.com

Twitter @kicker34


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