EVANSTON, Ill -- Welsh-Ryan was packed to the rafters with purple. A weary Purdue team provided the competition. The stage was set for Northwestern to rebound from its two-straight losses.
Right out of the gates, the Wildcats showed they had moved past the drubbings Nebraska and Michigan handed them. Purdue, however, looked like the same team which suffered its worst-ever home loss.
Just three minutes after tipoff, Northwestern had already built a 12-0 lead. The Boilermakers had already quit, while the Wildcats cruised to a 75-60 win.
“It’s great to get a victory at home,” NU head coach Bill Carmody said. “We haven’t really pleased the fans that much (in home games).”
Prior to the game, the Northwestern coaches outlined the importance of a fast start. Such a goal was far exceeded.
“We weren’t scoring enough points,” said point guard Dave Sobolewski. “[The coaches] wanted us to get out and go against Purdue at home.”
The biggest difference for Northwestern came from senior guard Reggie Hearn. After posting just 11 points on 4-of-19 from the field, Hearn recorded 21 first-half points and connected on his first nine shots. He would end the game with a new career-high in scoring at 26 points.
The even-keeled Hearn was far from his usual form in his two previous games. That changed on Saturday.
“I was just relaxing a little bit,” he said. “At the same time, it was just making shots. I got the same type of shots as the Nebraska and Michigan games, and I didn’t necessarily knock them down like I did today. Once I got going today, I just started feeling better and better.”
Everything was clicking for Northwestern. It recorded a school-record 12 blocked shots, shot a season-high 68 percent in the first half, and had 24 assists to just six turnovers. Four Wildcats—Hearn, Jared Swopshire, Dave Sobolewski, and Tre Demps—finished in double-figure scoring.
An offense which lacked rhythm in its prior two losses looked reborn against the Boilermakers. Though, there was no magic formula.
“We played well,” Carmody said. “The shots went in, but they were good shots.”
Purdue’s rough day started before departing to Welsh-Ryan Arena. As the Boilermakers sat on their bus, they were without freshman center A.J. Hammons, who was late to join the team. As a result, head coach Matt Painter started him on the bench.
Painter hoped Saturday’s contest would provide his team the chance to regroup. Instead, the problems persisted.
“It really says a lot to where we are and our immaturity,” a frustrated Painter explained after the loss.
With a needed win under their belts, the Wildcats have a week to wait for their next game. What does Bill Carmody hope his team accomplishes?
“Rest,” he said. “Mental rest and physical rest.”