The Boilermakers had a seven-point lead with over six minutes remaining, looking to close out the upstart Wildcats. They couldn't put them away. Purdue had clean looks at the final horn of regulation and both overtimes, but couldn't convert.
After a 63-60 double-overtime loss to Northwestern, the Boilermakers' promising postseason hopes took a huge hit.
"We had some opportunities to put the game away by making free throws and taking care of the basketball," head coach Matt Painter said after the game.
The final seconds of the second overtime ticked away as Ronnie Johnson's three-pointer was rejected by Northwestern senior forward Drew Crawford. The Boilermakers hung their heads in defeat while the Wildcats celebrated.
A little less than a week ago, Purdue closed out a pivotal road victory over Illinois, doing so with smart possessions, key free throws and important shots. None of that happened on Tuesday night in Evanston.
Northwestern's stifling defense was at it again, holding Purdue's offense to just 27.6 percent from the field, forcing it to 14 turnovers and containing A.J. Hammons and Terone Johnson to a combined 7-of-27 from the field.
"They kind of just packed [the pressure] in," Terone Johnson said of the Wildcats' defensive effort. "We didn't want to take bad shots against them, because they guard well."
Yet, even on an off night for the offense, the Boilermakers were still in prime position to pull a road win
Northwestern wasn't much better from the field, posting 35.5 percent on the game and 4-of-24 from beyond the arc. Still, when Purdue went cold, the Wildcats slowly took strides closer.
Hammons, who led all Purdue scorers with 17 points while adding 10 rebounds, was harsh on himself in addressing the defeat.
"This loss is on me," Hammons said, "because I didn't knock those free throws down when I needed to, and I didn't score in the paint at the end of the game."
Coach Painter added his own critique of Hammons' inconsistent performance.
"A.J.'s got to do a better job," Painter said. "He had seven turnovers; that's half our turnovers."
But the Boilermakers have plenty of blame to spread around. The entire offense was stymied by upstart Wildcats, taking the entire lineup out of sync.
Northwestern is now a winner in three of its last four games, that following an 0-3 start in Big Ten play which led many to believe it would go winless in the conference slate. Some key adjustments from first-year coach Chris Collins have led the Wildcats to stronger, more rounded defensive efforts.
"You get into a grind when it gets to Big Ten play," said Johnson. "There's always a team that's out to get you. You can't relax on any night."
There wasn't much Purdue could do except hope for that late rally. This time, it didn't happen.
On Tuesday, Purdue University faced a tragedy as a senseless shooting took the life of a 21-year-old T.A. and affected the school as a whole. A story on the Boilermaker basketball players' reaction will be posted shortly.
Boiler Sports Report offers its deepest condolences to the family of Andrew Boldt.