EVANSTON, Ill. (AP)As Northwestern struggled through the past couple seasons, Boo Buie and Chase Audige learned some tough lessons – on poise, and finishing strong, and competing.
That’s how they got to Sunday, and one historic victory for the Wildcats.
Buie scored 26 points and Audige had 15, leading Northwestern to a 64-58 win over Zach Edey and No. 1 Purdue.
”We put in so much work together and we’ve been through so many ups and downs,” Buie said. ”It’s finally starting to show what the real us is.”
Led by its experienced backcourt and supported by a rowdy student section behind each basket, Northwestern (18-7, 9-5 Big Ten) added a signature win to its bid for the school’s second NCAA Tournament appearance. The Wildcats got their first win in 19 games against the No. 1 team in the AP poll.
Northwestern’s 18 wins are the most for the school since it went 24-12 during the 2016-17 season, losing to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tourney. It went 32-55 in the previous three years before finding its stride against this season.
”We had a bunch of guys that stayed the course and stayed loyal to the program and fought,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said, ”and we had a great offseason.
”When you have a day like this, you know it can be emotional because you know there’s a lot of hard work by a lot of people to make this happen.”
Purdue (23-3, 12-3) had won 11 in a row against Northwestern, but the Boilermakers stumbled down the stretch. They shot just 28.6% (6 for 21) and committed 13 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.
Edey had 24 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, but the 7-foot-4 center turned it over six times. Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points on 1-for-7 shooting.
”Just got to show more poise and toughness than we did,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Edey’s hook shot lifted Purdue to a 55-47 lead with 3:52 to go. But Northwestern closed the game with a 17-3 run.
The decisive stretch began with a huge offensive rebound by Buie, setting up Audige’s 3-pointer. Audige then had a fast-break dunk, and he just kept going from there.
Audige scored 10 points in Northwestern’s dazzling finish. He gave the Wildcats the lead for good when he made a 3-pointer after an Edey turnover.
”When my team needed me, I just tried my best to be there,” Audige said. ”A shot went through, and then the rim started looking a little bigger.”
Brooks Barnhizer had a fast-break layup and Buie made two foul shots in the final minute to help Northwestern hold on. When it was over, the jubilant student sections stormed the court to celebrate with the team.
”Hopefully that’ll give our guys confidence to know that you can compete with a team that’s as good as anybody in the country,” Collins said.
Painter said Buie’s offensive rebound was a big moment at the end.
”We’ve got to secure that right there,” Painter said.
Ethan Morton and Mason Gillis each made a 3-pointer to help Purdue open a 26-16 lead with 9:19 left in the first half. But Buie converted a driving layup in the final seconds, trimming the Boilermakers’ lead to 37-30 at the break.
WATCHING THE REFS
Purdue attempted 12 foul shots in the first half and 12 in the second half, making 19 for the game. Northwestern attempted four free throws in the first half and 16 in the second, making a total of 14.
Asked if he felt the game was officiated differently in the second half, Painter responded: ”Yes. A lot differently, but that’s basketball and that’s being on the road and it’s our job to adjust.”
Purdue: Led by Gillis, the Boilermakers went 5 for 9 on 3-pointers in the early going. They missed their last 13 attempts from long range. They shot 36.2% from the field overall after shooting at least 50% in their previous five games.
Northwestern: Audige stepped up after a slow start, giving the Wildcats a big boost. Northwestern also was competitive on the glass, losing 35-30 in the rebounding battle.
Purdue visits Maryland on Thursday night. The Boilermakers beat the Terrapins 58-55 on Jan. 22 at Mackey Arena.
Northwestern hosts No. 18 Indiana on Wednesday night. The Wildcats topped the Hoosiers 84-83 on Jan. 8.
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