Northwestern has endured basketball hell in its starting lineup, and the struggles have been rudely illustrated in the past three games. In that span, it has averaged 41.7 points per game and been outscored by 80 points.
"We've been really struggling since we lost [Jared] Swopshire," head coach Bill Carmody explained, "and really haven't been able to figure it out."
The results were ugly once again. Northwestern shot 28.6 percent from the field while the Boilermakers seemingly had their way on offense. Purdue more than doubled the Wildcats in the rebounding category.
Having lost five of six games entering Sunday, the Boilermakers showed urgency in their game. They offered a full-court press in the early minutes, throwing a wrinkle at the Wildcats. It was never really close, as Purdue opened a 22-point lead in the game's opening 12 minutes.
"They came out and set the tone a little bit," Northwestern guard Tre Demps said. "They picked us up in full-court [press], hit us through our cuts, and those things make a difference. There's a difference between getting an open shot and not getting an open shot."
With the game escaping them early, the Wildcats were forced to rely on their best shooters, hoping to find the net. As the case has been recently, the shots weren't falling. Demps led Northwestern with just nine points, while Reggie Hearn added eight.
Purdue regained its rhythm on offense, as guard Terone Johnson led the charge with 22 points. D.J. Byrd, Rapheal Davis, and Ronnie Johnson each pitched in with double-figure scoring. Northwestern never contained the Boilermakers' attack—especially in the paint, where they tallied 36 points.
"They just came out hard and aggressive, and we just weren't able to contain their penetration for most of the night," said Carmody.
Since losing senior forward Jared Swopshire to a season-ending knee injury, Northwestern has missed plenty of productivity on the boards and with its defense. The Wildcats enjoyed great success on defense earlier in the season, even during the first meeting with Purdue, a 75-60 victory in Evanston.
"We've just lost a lot of defensive principles that we had earlier this year," said Hearn.
So what can the Wildcats do to get a victory?
"Everybody's got to give it everything we've got," Demps said. "Together, we have to meet up and ask ourselves what we want of this season."