Northwestern coach Chris Collins walked into his postgame news conference Wednesday night and offered all the customary words in his opening statement.
He knew what was coming next: the question about what led to his ejection with 1.7 seconds left in a 105-96 overtime loss to No. 2 Purdue and his angry, dramatic exit.
While Collins stopped short of criticizing the referees, he did acknowledge a 38-shot difference in free throw attempts played a key — and perhaps crucial — role in determining the outcome between two of the Big Ten’s top three teams.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a disparity like that in a Big Ten game,” Collins said. “I mean, I feel like we were aggressive, too. But Boo [Buie] doesn’t shoot a free throw in the game? It’s kind of crazy, but that’s how the game is called.”
Overall, Purdue had a 46-8 advantage in attempts from the line, the largest free throw attempt gap in Big Ten conference games over the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That discrepancy also was the second largest across Division I this season, trailing only Northeastern’s 51-9 free throw advantage against Old Dominion on Dec. 2.
Amid that disparity, Collins’ emotions boiled over in the waning moments of the game with the Wildcats’ fate all but sealed.
He walked onto the court, yelling furiously at one official with the ball still in play, drawing an immediate technical foul and the subsequent ejection. The argument continued near midcourt, where a Northwestern player restrained Collins and guided him toward the bench before the coach finally headed into the tunnel toward the locker room. Buie also drew a technical, giving the Boilermakers four late free throws after the game was decided.
As he departed, Collins congratulated Purdue coach Matt Painter and reigning national player of the year Zach Edey before gesturing to the booing fans to get louder.
By the time Collins spoke afterward, he had calmed down enough to acknowledge Purdue deserved to win a game that went back and forth for most of the final 10 minutes of regulation, right down to Buie’s 15-foot runner that bounced off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded to end regulation with the score tied at 81.
Edey scored Purdue’s first 10 points in overtime to help the Boilermakers earn their sixth straight win.
“If you would have said to me before the game, you’re going to be down 50 at the free throw line, and Boo’s going to have a shot at the buzzer, I would have said it would be pretty incredible,” Collins explained. “I don’t know if you guys would have believed me, if we were down 50 free throws and we had a shot to win it at the buzzer.”
Had the Boilermakers shot better than 29-of-46 from the line — or the physical Wildcats shot more than eight free throws — perhaps the game wouldn’t have gone to overtime.
But that was of little consolation to Collins, whose team had won the previous two matchups in this series by toppling top-ranked Boilermakers squads both times at home.
“Our guys showed a lot of poise,” Collins said. “Not many people come in here and win, and there’s a reason for that — because they have great teams and this crowd makes this such a fun environment. And you know, it’s just disappointing because we had our chances. We just couldn’t close the deal.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.