While Zach Edey understandably has garnered most of the attention surrounding No. 1 Purdue, the Boilermakers keep showing they are more than just their 7-foot-4 center.
Purdue might need another balanced effort on Sunday afternoon when it hits the road for a Big Ten showdown with Northwestern at Evanston, Ill.
The Boilermakers (23-2, 12-2) bounced back from a tough loss last weekend at Indiana by beating Iowa 87-73 at home on Thursday night. Despite the Hawkeyes keying on Edey, limiting him to four points in the first half, Purdue led for most of the contest as its backcourt stepped up, led by Braden Smith’s career-best 24 points.
Edey finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, but Purdue showed the depth it will need if it’s to make a run at a national championship.
“It’s cool to see, but when teams want to play like that we have a bunch of guys that can step up,” Edey said. “We have a really deep team and we’ve got a lot of guys that can hurt you, and that was showing today.”
Smith shot an impressive 8-for-10 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and added five assists and four rebounds.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said from his first day on the team, he has encouraged Smith to be more aggressive taking shots.
“He’s a 40 to 45 percent 3-point shooter and it didn’t make sense,” Painter said. “(I told him) any time you have the ability to play through ball screens, get to the rim and shoot or take the pull-ups and open shots, too. He likes to get everyone involved. He has really good instincts, but at times he doesn’t play off his instincts.”
Northwestern (17-7, 8-5) returns home following back-to-back road wins at Wisconsin and Ohio State.
They secured a 69-63 win at Ohio State on Thursday night despite committing five turnovers over the final three and a half minutes. Northwestern limited the Buckeyes to 1-for-14 shooting from 3-point range.
“We didn’t finish the game like I wanted to. We had a couple of careless turnovers and missed some free throws, but we made enough stops to finish the deal,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Anytime you can win on the road in the Big Ten it’s a big deal.”
The Wildcats beat the Buckeyes thanks to 19 points each from Boo Buie and Brooks Barnhizer, who made a career-best four triples and set a career-high scoring mark.
“He’s been getting better and better,” Collins said. “When we recruited him, we thought he could be this kind of guy.”
With the victory, the Wildcats moved into a four-way tie with Indiana, Michigan and Rutgers for second place in the conference behind Purdue.
But to stay there or continue to move up the ladder, Northwestern will have to do something it never has — beat No. 1.
The Wildcats are 0-18 all-time when playing the top-ranked team in the nation and haven’t played the No. 1-ranked team since losing to Michigan in 2013.
Northwestern has lost 11 in a row against Purdue and has not defeated the Boilermakers since 2014.
–Field Level Media