Boilermakers Snap NU's Streak

Emotions were running high in Mackey Arena as Northwestern and Purdue sought a pivotal win for their respective tournament résumés. The Boilermakers used a strong second half to beat the Wildcats, 87-77, earning a critical victory.

It was a hotly-contested, back-and-forth game in Mackey Arena. After 12 lead changes, 35 total second-half field goals, three combined technical fouls, a shoving match, and one ejection, Purdue earned a much-needed 87-77 win over Northwestern.

The heated play was no surprise to NU senior forward John Shurna, who posted a game-high 30 points, including 25 in the second half. With two teams vying for a key résumé, the tensions were high.

"That's just Big Ten play in February; it's going to get emotional out there, it's going to get heated," said Shurna. "That's what happened."

The Wildcats and Boilermakers both had an anemic offensive effort in the first half, then returned from the locker room and scored seemingly at will. NU hit on 19 of 32 second-half attempts, while Purdue connected on 14 of 26, including seven three-pointers.

"I didn't think they could stop us and we certainly couldn't stop them," NU head coach Bill Carmody said of the second half. "When they needed a basket, they got it."

The slow pace of the first half took a turn in the final minute, as Drew Crawford and Kelsey Barlow exchanged shoves. Both teams were riled up after that moment and emotions began to run high.

Crawford was apologetic for the incident, when addressing the media after the game.

"I just kind of lost my cool a little bit," said Crawford. "They play tough defense. Unfortunately, I let that get to me a little bit. If someone gets up in your face, it's hard not to react to it. I've got to be smarter about that and do it the Northwestern way."

The game tempo picked up in the second half with both teams playing inspired basketball.

Purdue took control of the game with under seven minutes remaining and the score tied at 57. D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson connected on back-to-back three-pointers, sparking the Boilermakers on a 17-7 run, and building the frustration in Northwestern.

The Wildcats were able to keep pace with Purdue for much of the second half, but the late run was too much for NU to handle, as its defensive woes against the hot shooting Boilermakers would prove to be the difference.

"They were pretty hot in the second half you can't let that," Crawford said. "You have to be able to contest shooters, especially in the 1-3-1. You've got to keep them shooting so easily and getting open looks."

On the ensuing possession following the Boilermaker run, Drew Crawford punched a loose ball after an offensive foul—which would later be reversed—which brought a technical foul to be called; his second of the game, forcing an ejection.

Crawford was contrite for his actions that removed him from the game.

"That was extremely dumb of me, I'm very ashamed of myself," Crawford said. "I really didn't represent my school in the right way, didn't represent my team in the right way, and that's something I can't do. I was trying to be a leader on this team and that's something I can't do. It's unacceptable and won't happen again."

Purdue advanced its record to 16-9 overall, and reached the pivotal .500 mark in Big Ten play—which is viewed to be the measuring stick for a NCAA tournament berth. Northwestern, on the other hand, drops to 5-7 in conference play.

A pivotal contest for each team featured plenty of sparks. Welcome to life in the Big Ten.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college football, college basketball and college baseball for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2009. He served as a writer for Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics, and is now the Publisher of PurpleWildcats.com, covering the Northwestern Wildcats.
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