However, that would be Purdue's only lead of the night. Northwestern senior center Aaron Jennings quickly responded with a Northwestern trey to give Northwestern a 5–3 lead.
Purdue tied the game at five, but a three-pointer from the baseline by Big Ten Player of the Week and Northwestern junior guard, Jitim Young, gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
With exactly one minute to play in the first half and Northwestern sitting on a ten point lead, Purdue guard Austin Parkinson bowled over Jitim Young at half-court and was whistled for an offensive foul. The call enraged Purdue Head Coach Gene Keady, who drew a technical foul for arguing the call. The Northwestern fans went wild as soon as the technical was signaled and Keady, in good humor, took a sarcastic bow.
Senior forward Winston Blake knocked down the second technical free-throw and improved Northwestern's lead to 11. Seconds later, Blake hit sophomore forward Davor Duvancic cutting through the lane for an easy back-door layup to put Northwestern up by 13 points, 31–18.
Northwestern held Purdue to their lowest scoring total of any half this season and led 30-21 at the break. The Boilermakers' leading scorer, Willie Deane, scored only three points in the half.
Determined not to surrender a large lead in the second half as they had at home against Michigan, the Wildcat maintained their poise and energy despite Purdue's increased defensive pressure. Less than two minutes into the half, Northwestern extended its lead all the way to 16 points on a back-door play from Jitim Young to freshman point guard T.J. Parker under the basket.
Purdue's offense came alive in the second half, but the Boilermakers could draw no closer than within six points of Northwestern as a result of the Wildcats' execution of their deliberately paced motion-offense. Time and time again, the Wildcats buried open three-point field goals or back-door layups as the shot clock wound down.
With just over a minute to play and Northwestern leading by six, Purdue guard Willie Deane stole a Northwestern pass, drove the length of the court, and missed an underhand layup that could have cut the lead to four points. Northwestern snared the rebound and Purdue was then forced to foul in order to stop the clock.
Northwestern entered the game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten. In the final 1:06 Wednesday night, however, the Wildcats converted on 13-of-14 attempts from the charity stripe and walked away with a 78–67 victory as the small Northwestern student section stormed the court.
The victory improved Northwestern's record to 10-11, 2-8 in the Big Ten.
The loss left the Boilermakers tied for first place in the Big Ten and dropped their record to 15-6, 7-3.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by Aaron Jennings with a career-high 20 points. Jennings converted on 4-of-8 attempts beyond the arc, shot a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line, grabbed 6 rebounds, came up with a steal, and dished out 2 assists.
A balanced attack
For the first time this season, Northwestern had five players score in double-figures, while another Wildcat fell just one point shy of joining the party. Aaron Jennings scored 20, Jason Burke 14, Jitim Young 12, Winston Blake 11, Mohamed Hachad 10, and T.J. Parker 9. The Wildcats only played seven players, yet all seven players scored.The upcoming tilt
Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody was very pleased with the team effort: "The scoring was balanced, the defense was balanced, and the plays were sort of balanced. Different guys seemed to come through when they had to come through. That's always a good feeling for a coach."
The Wildcats go on the road to East Lansing, Michigan this Saturday to face the Michigan State Spartans. Game time is set for 2 p.m. EST.
[Gregory Kane posts on Northwestern message boards as "go cats go". He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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