WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — When junior forward Vince Edwards rediscovered his shooting touch Wednesday night, it gave No. 23 Purdue a whole new look.
Perhaps the transformation will come in time to make a Big Ten title push.
Edwards scored 17 points and knocked down a season-high five 3-pointers, leading the Boilermakers to an 80-59 rout over No. 25 Northwestern.
“I was just being confident and having fun,” Edwards said after his best game since mid-December. “I just played hard and didn’t even think about it, just playing the way I know how to play.”
If Edwards keeps having this much fun, opponents certainly won’t because of Purdue’s one-two punch.
Of course, Caleb Swanigan did his customary inside work — 24 points and 16 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season. But with Edwards & Co. shooting so well, the Wildcats never had a chance.
Purdue diced up the conference’s best 3-point defense by going 9 of 14 in the first half and finishing 12 of 23. Over the last three games, the Boilermakers (18-5, 7-3) are 37 of 69 from beyond the arc (53.6 percent).
If they can keep it up, they will be tough to beat — as Northwestern (18-5, 7-3) found out.
“The 3-point shooting was certainly the story of the game in the first half,” Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. “They’re a very good team and they got us tonight.”
The Wildcats’ six-game winning streak in conference play ended on a night when they were without Scottie Lindsey, their leading scorer. He stayed home because of the flu and will have some extra time to recuperate while Northwestern has an open weekend.
Without Lindsey, Northwestern wasn’t the same.
Bryant McIntosh returned to his home state and finished with 22 points but was the only Wildcats player to reach double figures. Northwestern finished with its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
Purdue took control with a 12-0 run midway through the first half, extended the lead to 45-23 at halftime and pushed the margin to 26 early in the second half.
The Wildcats couldn’t get closer than 14 after that.
“When Vince Edwards made the shots, that opened things up,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “And we needed Vince to have some positive reinforcement.”
Northwestern: The Wildcats came up one win short of matching the longest Big Ten winning streak in school history. But without Lindsey, perhaps that should have been expected. While a road loss to a ranked team without their best player shouldn’t hurt their NCAA Tournament cause, it could knock the Wildcats out of next week’s AP Top 25 poll .
Purdue: The Boilermakers rebounded from a loss at Nebraska with an impressive home victory. Purdue has now won at least 12 home games in each of the last 12 seasons. If they maintain the balance they had Wednesday, the Boilermakers could rise again in the Top 25 — and the conference standings.
The Boilermakers have not lost consecutive games this season. In fact, they didn’t lose two in a row during the 2015-16 regular season, either. The last time Purdue dropped two straight regular-season games was March 2015, at Ohio State and Michigan State.
Collins didn’t sound too worried about the loss.
“This is just a hard building and a great place to play,” he said, reminding people not to overreact about a team that is 4-2 in conference road games. “If you get a deficit, it’s hard to climb out of it.”
Northwestern: Returns home to host in-state rival Illinois next Tuesday.
Purdue: Visits No. 17 Maryland on Saturday for its second straight game against a ranked foe.