Boilers topped the Wildcats 61-58 Sunday thanks to an impressive performance from sophomore guard Karissa McLaughlin in Mackey Arena.
With one minute remaining, the Boilers were only up by 3 points. Northwestern (15-11, 8-7) went to the free-throw line and went 1-of-2 to cut the lead down to 2. McLaughlin dribbled down the clock and nearly turned the ball over but, fortunately, it was a kicked ball.
The sophomore received an inbound pass, stepped back and knocked down the game-winner to defeat the Wildcats.
"My mindset was no one was in front of me," said McLaughlin. "I hit the shot, and it felt good."
The Boilers (17-11, 8-7) started the game sloppily. They had five turnovers in the first first five possessions. Luckily for Purdue, the Wildcats were unable to convert those turnovers into baskets. Junior forward Ae'Rianna Harris was able to take the lid off the basket for the Boilermakers on an and-1.
After Harris' and-1, McLaughlin got going. She knocked down two 3s in the first quarter. Harris and McLaughlin were responsible for all the Boilers' points in the first quarter, and both players ended with 6 points each.
The Northwestern Wildcats shot an abysmal percentage from the field in the first quarter. They went 6-of-20 from the field and 2-of-8 from the field.
The two teams came out in the second half trading baskets for the first few minutes. The Wildcats then began to simply out-hustle Purdue at times. They were getting to every 50-50 ball and seemed to just want it more.
"Our entire team played their heart out," said head coach Sharon Versyp.
The Boilers went on a quick run to stretch out their lead.
Once Purdue got the lead down to single digits, they went cold. The team went on nearly a three-minute scoring drought and was unable to take the lead. With thirty seconds left in the half, freshman guard Kayana Traylor drained a 3-pointer to cut it to a one-possession game heading into the halftime break.
The Wildcats came out blazing to start the second half. They went on a 6-0 run and knocked down three 3s in the first five minutes. When it seemed like Purdue was going to let the game get out of hand, McLaughlin exploded. For every 3 Northwestern knocked down, she answered with one of her own. The Boilers were able to cut the lead down to 6, thanks to McLaughlin.
And then came junior guard Dominique Oden. Once the Wildcats began focusing in on McLaughlin, Oden knocked two 3s of her own to tie up the game. Here the Boilers began to show the fight of a team that was playing for someone else. Those 50-50 balls that once went to the Wildcats began going to Purdue. They were able to lock in and fight to not let the game get out of control.
In the last minute of the third quarter, the Boilers went on a 6-0 run to tie up the game. In the final six seconds of the half, Traylor drove and converted the and-1 to keep the momentum going for Purdue.
McLaughlin continued her dominance in the fourth quarter. She started things off with a 3 to give the Boilers a lead. After her 3-point make, the Boilers went on a four-minute scoring drought that allowed the Wildcats to tie it back up. McLaughlin refused to let the Wildcats get back in it. She knocked down another 3 which sparked a 7-0 run from Purdue, prompting a Wildcat timeout. That 3 gave her 8 on the night, which is third-most ever hit by a Purdue player in a single game.
McLaughlin ended the night with 28 points, three rebounds and two assists. She shot a excellent 9-of-11 from the 3-point line, which paced Purdue throughout the night. This is good for the second-most 3s ever hit in a game by a Purdue player, tying with former Purdue player Courtney Moses for the spot.
"The whole time in warmups and everything, I just felt good," said McLaughlin. "I didn't have any doubts after I hit the first two. I was like, 'OK, I'm going to keep doing this for my team. Obviously this is what they need from me.'"
Additionally, today's game was senior night for guard Abby Abel and center Nora Kiesler. The pair were honored postgame, and the Boilers played for their coaches and others who they know personally.
The last stretch of games has been disappointing for Purdue, and this game was the perfect opportunity to turn things around. Purdue now sits at eighth in the Big Ten. Today's win could vault it up to sixth.
The Boilermakers return to action at 7 p.m., Thursday when they travel to Penn State (10-15, 3-11).