Gameday Preview: Northwestern (4-3) vs. Purdue (5-3)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — There is no doubt that Purdue has been battle-tested in preparation for Sunday's Big Ten opener against Northwestern. And even though the Boilermakers have taken a few lumps along the way, they seem primed to make a run in the league this season.

Purdue is 5-3 on the season, with losses to Texas, Marquette and Florida State, but the Boilermakers do feel a lot better about themselves after blowing out No. 5-ranked Virginia 69-40 on Wednesday. Virginia, the defending national champions, were 7-0 before the rout.

This is Purdue's first conference game of the season. The league started played two games in December two years ago.

Here are the particulars:

  • Who: Northwestern Wildcats (4-3) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (4-3)
  • When: 5 p.m. ET, Sunday, Dec. 8
  • Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Line: Purdue is a 13-point favorite
  • Rankings: Neither team is ranked in either the AP or Coaches poll. Purdue is receiving votes in both, however, and would be ranked No. 33 overall in each poll.
  • Kenpom.com rankings: Northwestern 99, Purdue 6
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • Announcers: Cory Provus, Stephen Bardo
  • Radio: Purdue Radio Network
  • Announcers: Larry Clisby, Rob Blackman, Ralph Taylor

Three things to know about Northwestern

  1. UGLY LOSSES: Northwestern has the Big Ten's two ugliest losses this season, losing at home to Merrimack and Radford in November. What made it even worse is that both losses were by double-digits, and to teams that are ranked No. 282 (Merrimack) and No 131 (Redford) in the kenpom.com national rankings.
  2. BUT AN ACC WIN: In the Wildcats' first true road game of the season, they beat Boston College 82-64 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge has week. That was a huge win for the league, because the Big Ten won 8-6. If that game had gone the other way, the event would have finished tied. The Wildcats did it with a 23-2 run early in the second half. Miller Kopp and Boo Buie each had 20 points in the surprise victory.
  3. MAKING THEIR FREE THROWS: Northwestern takes advantage of getting to the free throw line, making 79.6 percent of their shots. That's first in the Big Ten and ranked No. 8 in he country. Buie is a perfect 16-for-16 from the line, and two others are shooting over 83 percent. 

Three things to know about Purdue

  1. EMPHATIC VICTORY: Purdue's 69-40 win over No, 5 Virginia was shocking in many ways, mostly in the way that the Boilermakers were able to score well against the nation's best defense. They did it by taking the first good look they got each possession instead of running the shot clock down and forcing something, Sasha Stefanovic's three 3-pointers in the first few minutes really helped Purdue get going.
  2. CONFIDENCE BOOSTER: Beating a good team like Virginia helped erase some of those bad thoughts about the three losses, where Purdue blew second-half leads in all three games. It was nice to go out and dominate a good team from beginning to end and know that they can contend with anyone heading into the Big Ten season.
  3. LINEUP SHUFFLE: It will be interesting to see who starts for the Boilermakers on Sunday. Against Virginia, Purdue coach Matt Painter gave Stefanovic and Trevion Williams their first starts of year, and they responded in a big way. Aaron Wheeler and Nojel Eastern took the demotions well, but they all are key pieces going forward. 
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