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Northwestern raises more questions in loss

Northwestern finds itself asking the same questions every game:

Where can it find scoring down the stretch? When might it break
through? When will it win another Big Ten game?

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they had no answers to those questions in a 68-60 loss Saturday to Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It was their seventh loss in a row since they opened conference play with a victory Dec. 30 at Rutgers.

Unlike NU’s last five Big Ten games, this one wasn’t filled with drama in the final minutes. Still, just as they have in nearly every
conference game, the Wildcats (10-11, 1-7) had chances but frittered
them away.

‘‘This is unacceptable,’’ junior guard Tre Demps said. ‘‘Just can’t
happen. It starts with the older guys like myself, so I hold myself
accountable before anybody else.’’

NU led 29-28 at the break after guard Bryant McIntosh made a
layup with three seconds left in the first half. The Wildcats
seemingly had momentum, but they didn’t know how to take advantage of it.

The Boilermakers (14-8, 6-3) are battling for an NCAA tournament bid. NU isn’t in the same league right now, and it showed at the start of the second half. Purdue opened the half with a 15-2 burst, scoring on seven consecutive possessions. It proved to be the difference in the game.

All season, Wildcats coach Chris Collins has emphasized the need to be positive with his group of young, developing players. He always will let his team know if it played well, even in a loss. But on a night in which NU didn’t bring nearly its best effort, Collins let his players
know they fell short of his standard.

‘‘I’ll be the first one to sit there and hug and cry after you lose a
heartbreaker in Maryland or the way we lost to Michigan State or Ohio State, when I knew we played as good as we could play and really fought hard,’’ Collins said. ‘‘Tonight, that wasn’t my tone. I was
really disappointed in the way we started the second half, and the
guys know that.’’

Demps and McIntosh each scored 18 points for the Wildcats, but no one else had more than six.

Boilermakers centers A.J. Hammons (16 points, nine rebounds) and Isaac Haas (10 points) gave NU problems all night and eventually caused center Alex Olah to foul out.