- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Northwestern came out hot and claimed an early lead before Purdue rallied behind stifling defense and the brilliance of junior guard E'Twaun Moore.
A few thoughts halfway through a good one.
Purdue missed 13 of its first 16 field-goal attempts but didn't let the cold shooting have any effect on the defensive end. Northwestern generally handles the ball well, but the Boilers forced 11 turnovers in the opening half.
Moore scored 16 of the Boilers' first 24 points and hit three 3-pointers in less than two minutes to spark a nice run late in the half. He's really taking control in the absence of star forward Robbie Hummel and not hesitating on any shooting opportunities.
Much like his last game against Northwestern, Purdue center JaJuan Johnson found himself in early foul trouble. But after briefly leaving the floor with two fouls, the junior provided a jolt of offense for an otherwise cold Boilermakers team. If Johnson can avoid the whistles in the second half, he could be a difference-maker for Purdue.
Northwestern center Luka Mirkovic has struggled mightily away from Evanston this season, but he's showing how he can affect a game tonight. Before leaving the floor with two fouls, Mirkovic passed the ball extremely well out of the post, finding shooters open for 3-pointers. And tonight, Northwestern is knocking down its open 3s. Fouls limited Mirkovic's effectiveness in the half, but he should be a factor in the final 20 minutes.
The Wildcats were a two-man team (Michael Thompson and John Shurna) for most of Big Ten play, but they're getting more from other players for the second straight tournament game. Freshman Drew Crawford, who is battling a multitude of injuries right now, has 10 first-half points. Jeremy Nash is contributing at the foul line.