It was a painfully familiar script for Northwestern fans on Saturday afternoon. NU trailed by two points with time ticking away, and looked for a prayer. John Shurna's game-winning 35-foot heave banked off the backboard, well wide of the rim. Much like their games against Illinois and Michigan, the buzzer sounded with the Wildcats falling just short.
Just days after Hummel's potential game-winner to beat Michigan missed, Purdue head coach Matt Painter put the ball back in his senior standout's hands with the game on the line. The score tied at 56 and the shot clock winding down, when Hummel drove from the corner and lofted the ball in for the go-ahead two-pointer.
"Anytime you have a guy like (Robbie) Hummel, you want the all in their hands to make a decision, or make a shot," said Matt Painter. "He made a good decision tonight to drive that and not force it."
With time for a last shot, Northwestern had to go the full length of the court. David Sobolewski drove past center court, and was looking to find Drew Crawford at the top of the key. Purdue applied defensive pressure with its guards, and Sobolewski was unable to reach Crawford.
"It was tough pressure from the (Purdue) guards (as we were) bringing it up," said Crawford. "The play didn't work out the way we drew it up because of the pressure."
Sobolewski dished off to John Shurna, who was forced to throw up an off-balanced three-pointer. His lengthy heave misfired as the buzzer sounded.
"We were fortunate they didn't get a quality shot," said Painter. "That was a deep three off a ball fake. We were fortunate they didn't get a better shot."
Crawford was distraught when describing another gut-wrenching loss to the media. The final shot was designed for him to take, but a stingy Purdue attack prevented that from happening. Crawford was disappointed to see another last-second finish go against the Wildcats.
"I just wanted (the team) to be able to get a good shot," Crawford said. "The one we got was a really tough shot. I'm confident in everyone on the team. I just wanted to get a good shot to tie it up."
A late-game charge allowed Northwestern to have a prayer. Trailing by four points with two minutes remaining, Reggie Hearn drove to the hoop and attempted a dunk. The basketball rattled off the rim, but went through the hoop.
"I thought I put it threw," said Hearn. "Then I saw out of the corner of my eyes, it was jiggling through. I saw two or three Purdue players behind me. I was glad it went in."
It appeared as if the breaks were going Northwestern's way at that point. The good fortunes would continue for the Wildcats, as a Hearn layup tied the score with 41 seconds left. Hearn finished with five points, but four of those helping propel his team back.
Purdue received a big boost in the final seconds of the first half, as Anthony Johnson drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer, giving his team a four-point halftime lead.
The Boilermakers started the second half strong, and opened up a nine-point lead. Northwestern would respond with a 15-2 run, and took a four-point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the game. That would be the Wildcats' largest lead of the game. Purdue erased its deficit, and Northwestern would not own a lead during the remainder of the game.
Northwestern's record now sits at 12-8 overall, and 2-6 in Big Ten play. Its win over No. 6 Michigan State remains the only marquee win. The Wildcats are in desperate need of wins.
The ‘Cats return to action on Thursday night, when Big Ten newcomer Nebraska makes its first trip to Welsh-Ryan as a member of the conference.
Drew Crawford is optimistic the team can rebound from its third straight loss. He said: "I know the next game, we're going to be coming out hungry and ready to play."