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Northwestern finishes off Purdue

The SportsXchange

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Northwestern still has a long road ahead to climb into Big Ten Conference championship discussion moving forward, but the improving Wildcats made another statement Sunday afternoon in Purdue's Mackey Arena.

Getting 27 points from senior forward Drew Crawford, Northwestern defeated slumping Purdue 74-65 to avoid a last-place Big Ten Conference finish and plunging the Boilermakers into the league basement.

The Wildcats (13-18, 6-12 Big Ten) swept the two-game season series from the Boilermakers, winning a January meeting 63-60 in double overtime in Evanston, Ill. Sunday was Northwestern's fourth Big Ten road victory. It defeat only Illinois and Purdue in conference home action.

"On the road, we really tend to bond together," said Crawford, who was 13 of 14 from the free-throw line. It is kind of like a backs-against-the-wall mentality. You have thousands of fans rooting against you. Everyone roots for you to fail.

"On the road is where we eat every meal together and where we are the closest. We know that on the road, we really have to band together to get a good team win."

A 6-0 Northwestern run, capped by guard/forward Sanjay Lumpkin's 3-pointer with 12:01 remaining, pushed the Wildcats' lead to 42-30 and marked the beginning of the end for Purdue, which finishes last in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2005-06 season, coach Matt Painter's first at his alma mater.

Trailing 48-34 with 9:38 remaining, Purdue sliced the 14-point deficit to six before Crawford's clutch 3-pointer with 1:07 increased the lead to 67-58.

"We have had a rough few weeks," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "We lost (guard) Jershon Cobb, and then on Thursday night, we hit a real low point against Penn State by scoring only 32 points. For Drew to be a leader and rally the guys and come in here and win on the road today against a determined Purdue team was a really special win for us.

"Lumpkin hitting those two 3-pointers was huge ... like a shot in the arm. And for us to have only six turnovers against a team that is really good with ball pressure was huge."

After a 13-5 start, the Boilermakers will take a 15-16 record into this week's Big Ten tourney as the No. 12 seed. Purdue finishes 5-13 in the Big Ten, 2-11 since a Jan. 18 victory against Penn State in Mackey Arena.

Purdue got 13 points each from sophomore forward Rapheal Davis and 13 from sophomore center A.J. Hammons on the Boilermakers' Senior Day. Senior guard Terone Johnson added 10.

It is the second consecutive season Purdue finishes the regular season 15-16.

Northwestern took advantage of the Boilermakers' cold first-half shooting to seize a 28-21 lead after 20 minutes.

With center A.J. Hammons and guards Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson and Kendall Stephens going a collective 0 of 14 from the field in first-half action, Purdue made only five of 26 opening-half shots (19.2 percent), including two of 16 start.

"We got some good shots, and then when we missed those shots, we started not taking good shots at times," Terone Johnson said of Purdue's atrocious start. "That is what got us down early, and it was kind of frustrating."

Senior center Travis Carroll said there is no reason why Purdue missed 14 of its first 16 shots.

"Northwestern got their heads up early, and then it was kind of hard to come back after that," he said.

Painter said the Boilermakers never could recover from missing so many early good shots.

"We really struggled from the field," Painter said. "It's just too bad. It is really disappointing. We couldn't get the basketball inside, and we couldn't drive. We needed better patience to try and get a better shot."

Meanwhile, Olah, Crawford and Demps combined for 24 points during the first 20 minutes. Like they had done in victories at Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Wildcats slowed the tempo against the Boilermakers, frustrating a team that has been known for taking quick shots.

Olah finished with 14 points and Demps added 10.

Northwestern made 21 of 51 field-goal attempts and was 25 of 34 from the free-throw line. Purdue was 21 of 59 from the field and 19 of 23 from the line.

NOTES: Before Sunday, Purdue had 123 victories against Northwestern, more than against any other opponent in school history. ... This is the second time since the 1950-51 season that Northwestern has swept a two-game season series from Purdue. The most recent time was 2005-2006. ... The victory snapped a seven-game Northwestern losing streak that included a 59-32 loss to Penn State on Thursday night in Evanston.

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