No. 5 Purdue goes for season sweep of improving Northwestern
Purdue's Sasha Stefanovic called his team "lethargic on both ends of the floor" as the Boilermakers slogged through the first half of their Sunday game against visiting Maryland.
Then, he referred to Purdue the way the record books will -- as winners.
"I thought we did a good job of handling that adversity early," Stefanovic said. "Obviously, we played poorly, but any win is a big win for us."
After edging the Terrapins 62-61 for their seventh victory in eight games, the No. 5 Boilermakers will aim to avoid a letdown when they visit Northwestern on Wednesday night in Evanston, Ill.
Purdue (22-4, 11-4 Big Ten) blasted the Wildcats (12-11, 5-9) by 20 points on Jan. 23 in West Lafayette, Ind. But prior history guarantees little, if anything, especially after the Boilermakers committed 16 turnovers and were forced to erase a 12-point, second-half deficit against the Terrapins.
Jaden Ivey put Purdue ahead for good on a three-point play with 13.1 seconds left, and Trevion Williams blocked Donta Scott's layup in the waning seconds to preserve the advantage.
"Most importantly, we just gotta get better off these games," Ivey said. "Just countless amounts of mistakes we made today. We can't do that down the stretch in March or we're going to lose. We won't be champions if we don't correct this. ...
"In practice, and I think this will help our team. Just keep learning from games like that this. We just gotta keep building, that's all we can do. Keep jelling together and just try to keep improving day by day."
Northwestern has personified that mantra in February, defeating Rutgers, Nebraska and Indiana in its first three games of the month before faltering down the stretch on Sunday in a 73-66 road loss at then-No. 13 Illinois.
After rallying from an 18-point deficit to climb within one point of the Fighting Illini with 6:13 to go, the Wildcats were unable to hold on or limit Illinois' Kofi Cockburn, who notched 19 points and 15 rebounds.
"There is no one like him in the country with that force, with that size," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. "It just puts a lot of pressure on you in a lot of ways."
Ty Berry (16 points), Chase Audige (12) and Pete Nance (10) each finished in double figures for Northwestern, which forced 20 Illinois turnovers.
The Boilermakers faced a similar predicament as the Fighting Illini -- battling an unranked opponent late in the game -- but used a 17-2, second-half run to regain control. Stefanovic swished two of his five 3-pointers during the surge en route to 17 points.
"In that stretch, I thought we did a good job of just getting stops and then going on runs and making good, open shots," Stefanovic said, "finding people in stride where they were able to make easy jump shots."
Zach Edey amassed 10 points and 11 rebounds for Purdue, while Williams (12 points) and Ivey (11) also scored in double figures.
Purdue has won 10 in a row against Northwestern, which is seeking its first victory in the series since March 9, 2014.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 15, 2022