Purdue beats Northwestern 68-60
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Purdue coach Matt Painter has seen this type of performance from his center AJ Hammons before.
He just wants to see it more frequently.
Hammons scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and helped spur a decisive 21-4 run in the second half as Purdue beat Northwestern 68-60 on Saturday.
''He's had games like this, but can he consistently have these games where you can count on him every single night?'' Painter asked of himself. ''He's getting better in that area. We think he's one of the best players in this league. When he plays like this he definitely is.''
Hammons' aggressiveness helped the Boilermakers (14-8, 6-3) outscore the Wildcats (10-11, 1-7) 32-22 in the paint. He scored eight of his points after halftime and shot 7 of 9 from the field.
''When he plays with that kind of energy, he's as talented a kid as there is in the Big Ten,'' Northwestern coach Chris Collins said.
Raphael Davis added 15 points and Jon Octeus had 14 points for the Boilermakers, who have won three straight.
Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh scored 18 points apiece for the Wildcats, who have lost seven straight.
Purdue took control of the game with a 21-4 run to turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 16-point lead in the second half.
Northwestern remains winless in 2015 with their lone conference victory coming over Rutgers on Dec. 30. The Wildcats had lost their previous three by a total of five points.
Collins said he was disappointed with his team's defensive intensity after halftime.
''We can't have those stretches. Our margin for error is too slim,'' Collins said.
After Alex Olah scored his first points of the game with 18:38 remaining to pull Northwestern within 32-31, Purdue scored the next 11 points.
''If you don't match that energy, they can pound you,'' Collins said. ''That's what really happened the first six minutes of the second half.''
Jeremiah Kreisberg broke the Wildcats' scoreless streak with a jumper with 15:06 remaining, cutting the lead to 43-33. But Northwestern's Vic Law was called for goaltending on the next possession and Purdue extended its lead to 49-33 with 13:19 remaining. Davis scored eight points and Hammons had six points during Purdue's run.
The Boilermakers shot 47 percent from the field to Northwestern's 42 percent. Isaac Haas added 10 points for Purdue.
The game featured two of the top centers in the Big Ten. Hammons entered the game averaging 10.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and a conference-leading 2.8 blocked shots. Olah was averaging 11.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots. Olah finished with four points and one rebound - all in the second half - and fouled out with 3:15 remaining.
''We've had a tough time against Olah.'' Painter said. ''We were able to get the best of him this time. It doesn't mean it'll happen next time.''
Olah scored 14 points in the teams' last meeting.
''Before the game, the coaches kept talking to me, kept bringing up last year when Olah kept getting buckets, and I know I wasn't playing like I was supposed to,'' Hammons said. ''That just gave me more energy.''
Purdue: The Boilermakers last won in Evanston during the 2011-12 season. . Purdue was coming off an 83-67 upset of No. 22 Indiana and a 67-63 win over then-No. 25 Iowa. . The Boilermakers surpassed last season's win total in the conference (5-13).
Northwestern: The Wildcats swept Purdue last season. . Northwestern's roster has six freshmen and two sophomores. . The Wildcats fell 68-67 to No. 16 Maryland in its last game.
AT THE LINE
Purdue made 24 of 32 free throws. Northwestern went 8 for 11 at the foul line.
The Boilermakers entered the game 11th in the conference in free-throw percentage (67.4 percent).
''We weren't perfect, but obviously we made some to keep them at a distance,'' Painter said.
Purdue hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.
Northwestern visits Nebraska on Tuesday.