WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue immediately wanted to play again after getting embarrassed by in-state rival Indiana.
Turns out, the eight-day break from games was good for the Boilermakers. Terone Johnson scored 22 points to help Purdue defeat Northwestern 74-43 on Sunday night and snap a three-game losing streak.
The wait helped Purdue perfect its game plan against an extremely structured Northwestern offense that can be difficult to defend.
"I think it's always tough to wait that long, especially after coming off a loss the way we lost at IU," Johnson said. "You feel like you want to play the next day to get that loss off your mind. But I thought it was a definite advantage against their (Northwestern's) system. The way they do things, you have to play totally different. It definitely helped us out."
Purdue had lost five of six, and its last three losses had come by a combined 61 points, including the 83-55 loss to the top-ranked Hoosiers. Though the Boilermakers were forced to wait to play, they wasted no time getting back to work.
"I think we had a lot of good practices in a row," Terone Johnson said. "When we came back from IU, we didn't take a day off, we practiced the next day. We had a really hard practice, actually, and I think that carried on into the week of practice."
D.J. Byrd scored 13 points and Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis added 10 each for the Boilermakers (13-14, 6-8 Big Ten), who shot 53 percent from the field and outrebounded the Wildcats 48-23. It was the second-largest victory margin of the season for Purdue and the worst loss of the season for Northwestern.
Purdue coach Matt Painter benched No. 2 scorer A.J. Hammons to start the game. The 7-foot center, who leads the Big Ten in blocked shots during conference play, had six points and two blocks in 12 minutes.
"He's trying to play hard on Wednesday and Saturday," Painter said. "You've got to play hard every single day."
Tre Demps led Northwestern with nine points. Reggie Hearn, who scored 26 points in Northwestern's 75-60 win on Feb. 2, finished with eight.
Northwestern (12-15, 5-9) has lost its past three games, all by 20 or more points. Coach Bill Carmody said the latest blowout loss started with getting beat up inside.
"You can't let them get the ball so deep," Carmody said. "That's the first thing. There's a sweet spot that they get it at, then it's one dribble into their favorite move. If you can push him out eight feet from the basket posting up instead of 5 feet, it's significant."
Purdue took an early 9-3 lead on a 3-pointer by Byrd. When Purdue led 17-7, Terone Johnson had as many points as Northwestern.
The Boilermakers continued to put the pressure on the Wildcats. Davis' 3-pointer pushed the lead to 22-7 during a 14-0 run that gave the Boilermakers a 29-7 lead. Purdue held the Wildcats scoreless for nearly six minutes during that stretch.
Mike Turner hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left in the first half to cut Purdue's lead to 40-25 at the break. The Boilermakers shot 54 percent from the field in the first half and outrebounded the Wildcats 24-9. Terone Johnson had 12 points and Byrd had 11 at halftime.
Northwestern made just 8 of 28 shots in the first half.
Terone Johnson drove strong to the hoop and cocked the ball behind his head before fully extending for a layup that gave the Boilermakers a 49-27 lead. A 3-point play by Davis and a floater by Ronnie Johnson pushed the advantage to 56-31.
Purdue extended its lead to 30 on another bucket by Terone Johnson, part of a 10-0 run over a 3 ˝-minute span that gave the Boilermakers a 68-33 lead. The offensive production was a byproduct of unselfish play, something that had been missing.
"I thought once the shot clock got down to around 13 or 14, earlier in the season, guys were just putting up bad shots," Terone Johnson said. "We actually worked the ball around. Sometimes, it got down to five, and there goes a guy open for a 3. After a drive, people are kicking it out. Those rhythm shots are good for us."
The players said it was the kind of performance that showed what the Boilermakers can do it they stay focused and play tough.
"It shows what we can do when we crash the boards," Byrd said. "We really outrebounded them today. When we're active on the boards, active on defense, we can play with the highest caliber teams."