NORTHWESTERN (15-8, 5-6 Big Ten) AT PURDUE (15-9, 5-6 Big Ten)
Time: 6 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Location: Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Northwestern 36 (No. 5 Big Ten)
Purdue 58 (No. 8 Big Ten)
Line: Purdue -7 (140 o/u)
Northwestern Players to Watch: F John Shurna, 6-9 Sr. (19.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.5 apg); G Drew Crawford, 6-5 Jr. (17.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2 apg); G Dave Sobolewski, 6-1 Fr. (8.4 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3 rpg). Sobolewski is coming off his best performance of the season with 23 points, seven assists and four steals as the Wildcats drilled Iowa 83-64 at home Thursday. The freshman ranks sixth in the Big Ten in assists.
Purdue Players to Watch: F Robbie Hummel, 6-8 Sr. (15.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg); G Lewis Jackson, 5-9 Sr. (10 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.3 spg); F D.J. Byrd, 6-5 Jr. (7.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 45.1% 3s). Byrd nearly led the Boilermakers to an upset of Ohio State with 24 points, including 7-of-9 from the 3-point line, and six rebounds in Purdue’s 87-84 loss on Tuesday.
Storylines: This game has serious NCAA Tournament implications. The Wildcats and Boilers are tied with Illinois in sixth place in the Big Ten at 5-6, a game behind fifth-place Indiana and a half-game ahead of ninth-place Minnesota and Iowa.
Key Stats: Purdue forced 16 Wildcat turnovers and Hummel hit a baseline jumper with 12 seconds left as the Boilermakers won in Evanston, 58-56 on Jan. 28. The Boilers are second in the Big Ten in turnover margin. They force 13.9 turnovers per game and commit just 8.9 themselves. Northwestern is third in turnover margin at plus-2.6 and lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.6-to-1. Purdue is second with a 1.5-to-1 ratio. Both teams are poor free throw shooting teams. Northwestern makes 69 percent of their foul shots, Purdue connects on a league-worst 63.5. The Wildcats shoot 38.4 percent from the 3-point line (second in the Big Ten), while Purdue surrenders a conference-worst 37 percent.
The Bottom Line: This game could go either way, but Purdue’s defense will be the difference down the stretch.
The Pick: Purdue 67, Northwestern 64