Purdue looked a little tired. Jaden Ivey struggled. Same for Trevion Williams.
Fortunately, the Boilermakers have one of college basketball’s deepest rosters.
Zach Edey had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Purdue moved into first place in the Big Ten with a 70-64 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
Capping a stretch of eight games in 21 days, the Boilermakers (23-4, 12-4) shot 45% from the field and committed 14 turnovers in a rugged performance by one of the country’s most efficient teams. But they held the Wildcats to 35% shooting and controlled the glass with a 39-34 rebounding advantage.
Mason Gillis and Eric Hunter Jr. each scored 11 points as Purdue moved a half-game ahead of No. 12 Illinois for the top spot in the conference. The Boilermakers swept their season series against the Illini.
“We got 10 guys that can go on a minute’s notice, so it’s always the next man up mentality,” Gillis said.
After watching his team get its eighth win in nine games, coach Matt Painter acknowledged the toll the stretch had on his Boilermakers.
“It catches up to you. You just don’t talk about it as a coach,” he said. “You try to do things to help them. You know, have shorter practices, challenge them, try to keep them on edge. ... It’s not all physical. The mental piece is so important.”
Robbie Beran had 13 points for Northwestern (12-12, 5-10), and Pete Nance finished with 12. The Wildcats have dropped their last 11 games against the Boilermakers, also losing 80-60 in their first meeting of the season on Jan. 23.
“I think they’re a really good team,” Beran said. “They’ve got obviously two really good guys down low. It kind of sets the tone. They have some good guard play, kind of push it in transition. Ivey is a one-man fast break.”
Northwestern held Ivey to eight points on 2-for-12 shooting, and the 6-foot-10 Williams finished with just four points. Ivey was averaging a team-high 17.4 points coming into the game, and Williams was averaging 12.3 points.
The off night for Ivey and Williams meant the Boilermakers needed the 7-foot-4 Edey to deliver — and he did. Gillis, Hunter and Sasha Stefanovic also made some big plays down the stretch.
The Boilermakers took control by opening the second half with a 7-0 run. Ivey converted a three-point play off an assist by Edey, making it 39-28 with 17:59 left.
Northwestern pulled within seven on a 3-pointer by Julian Roper II, but Purdue responded with a 10-2 run. Gillis and Stefanovic each hit a 3 before Williams’ jumper made it 62-47 with 6:39 remaining.
Gillis made three 3s in the second half. He went 0 for 7 from deep in his previous two games.
“I try to take the emotion out of shooting. Miss or a make,” Gillis said. “If I get an open shot, it’s going up.”
Purdue: Shrugging off their slow offensive start, the Boilermakers matched the school’s best 27-game start since it was 25-2 during the 1987-88 season. The Boilermakers also were 23-4 in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2010 and 2018.
Northwestern: Ryan Young’s hand went numb after he was hit on his arm in the second half and he left the game. Coach Chris Collins said he was OK. Young’s positive prognosis was an upbeat note on another tough night for the Wildcats. Boo Buie, who was averaging a team-high 15.1 points coming in, was shut out in the first half. He finished with 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Purdue: Hosts Rutgers on Sunday.
Northwestern: At Minnesota on Saturday afternoon.