GAME NOTES: Aiming to get back to .500 on the season, the Northwestern Wildcats clash with the Purdue Boilermakers in Big Ten Conference action at Welsh-Ruan Arena.
Since Christmas, the Wildcats have found wins hard to come by, posting just two victories in a span of seven games. Luckily, those two triumphs have come over the past three outings, the latest being a 54-47 final versus Indiana in a spirited meeting this past Saturday. Still, Northwestern is only 2-4 in conference play and that has the program buried near the bottom of the standings entering the week.
As for the Boilermakers, they have won three in a row, but the most recent victory was a slim 65-64 decision over Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 0-6 in conference and 9-10 on the campaign overall, so Purdue fans shouldn't get too excited about moving to 3-2 in league action just yet.
Purdue owns an overwhelming 123-44 advantage in the all-time series, picking up a 74-43 victory in the most recent encounter last February.
At home in Mackey Arena, the Boilermakers should have had a better showing against Penn State over the weekend, but at least the team was able to land in the win column one more time. Terone Johnson scored 14 points, Kendall Stephens and Basil Smotherman tallied 12 apiece, the latter also clearing 10 rebounds, while A.J. Hammons tacked on 10 points and seven boards, although he missed all four of his field goal chances in the outing.
Generating 76.0 ppg, the Boilermakers are a solid offensive bunch, but they have just two players scoring in double figures. Terone Johnson leads the way with 13.4 ppg and Ronnie Johnson comes in with 10.8 ppg, the latter also keeping the offensive in motion with 67 assists. In Big Ten play, Johnson and Johnson are joined in double figures by Hammons who is actually the top producer in those five outings with 14.0 ppg, accounting for 7.0 rpg and 14 blocked shots as well.
With points being at a premium, Northwestern led by three at the break on Saturday, 22-19, and it was quite impressive to see the Wildcats close out their meeting against Indiana, on the road no less, in such commanding style. Drew Crawford played the star for the visitors as he registered a double- double consisting of 17 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Tre Demps off the bench with 15 points.
Starting all 18 games in which he has appeared and playing close to 35 minutes per contest, it makes sense that Crawford is the leading scorer for Northwestern with his 15.1 ppg. Crawford is also tops on the glass with 7.2 rpg, but with only two other players with at least 5.0 rpg to their credit, the squad is still coming up short versus the opposition on the glass by an average of 2.3 rpg. With that deficit also comes a scoring margin that has the Wildcats posting 1.7 ppg less than foes at this point in the campaign.
Considering how close the Boilermakers cut it against Penn State and the fact that the team is on the road for this meeting, there's more than a good chance that a reinvigorated Northwestern squad can again turn the screws on defense and pull out the win tonight.
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