Purdue's Defense Dominates in Win Over Northwestern
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It wasn't always pretty, but Purdue still found a way to scratch and claw past Northwestern on Sunday night at Mackey Arena to win its Big Ten conference opener.
The Boilers won 58-44, but needed a 9-point run late to finally pull away from the pesky Wildcats. Purdue, now 6-3 overall, did it with defense.
"It wasn't clean, but we did some good things,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said afterward. ''And, obviously, we held them to 44.''
The defensive effort was impressive, especially after coming off Wednesday's 69-40 victory over No. 5 Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It's the first time Purdue held back-to-back opponents under 45 points since 1947. Purdue has held seven straight foes to 65 points or fewer, the longest such streak in nine years, and in the last three games, opponents were just for 10-for-58 shooting from 3-point range, a paltry 17.2 percent.
This one was ugly early, with Purdue leading just 22-16 at halftime. It stayed close until Purdue went on a 9-0 run late in the game to finally pull away. Sasha Stefanovic led the Boilers with 14 points, Matt Haarms had 12 and Jahaad Proctor had 10, keeping his double-figures scoring streak alive at 25 games dating back to last season at High Point.
"Northwestern played really hard and they made it difficult on us,'' Painter said. "If we just could have made some shots and got them on their heels a little bit, that would have helped, but it just didn't happen. We're still learning on offense, too, and we still have to adjust to things as we go.''
Purdue, the defending Big Ten co-champions, is now 43-4 at home against Big Ten opposition since the start of the 2014-15 season. Purdue has won 13 straight home games against Big Ten teams.
"The ball doesn't go in sometimes, but I think we responded to that well,'' Haarms said. "I think that one stretch, we went 10 of 11 in getting stops. We take pride in that. I'm proud of our guys. Even though the shots weren't falling, we were able to grind a team out and it feels pretty good.''
Painter started a big lineup for the second straight game, with Haarms and Trevion Williams playing together down low and Stefanovic starting at guard. Painter liked that his two big men didn't have any turnovers and made smart decisions with the basketball.
"Starting out the game, we tried to get it in the post because we knew they would double and we did a lot of big-to-big passing,'' Williams said. "We're more efficient when the ball gets in the paint. And when we play together, we make it hard on people defensively because we're so long.''
Stefanovic, the 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from Crown Point, Ind., led the team is scoring for the second straight game. He had a career-high 20 points Wednesday against Virginia.
NEXT UP: Purdue plays its second December Big Ten game next Sunday when it takes on Nebraska in Lincoln. The game is at 4 p.m. ET is will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
- Purdue-Northwestern box score: CLICK HERE