WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue coach Matt Painter would take toughness over style any day.
So on a night the Boilermakers struggled to make shots or take advantage of their early opportunities to pull away, he enjoyed watching his team discover its true identity.
"We had to stick with what we were doing and keep pounding the basketball inside, keep making them make a decision on what to do once the ball goes inside," Painter said. "I thought our guys did a good job at grinding out the victory."
To the casual basketball fan, it was a night filled with ugliness.
But to Painter, it was basketball beauty.
Purdue (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten) adapted to the challenges by working together to overcome their third-worst shooting game of the season, 38.3 percent.
Fortunately, Hammons dominated the first half, when he had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Hill delivered in the second half, with 11 of his 15 points. Ryan Cline was the only other player in double figures, finishing with 11 points including a key 3-pointer that extended the lead to nine with 6:36 to go.
"It allowed us to get going a little bit on offense and have a little free flow to us," Hill said. "It translated to the defensive end where you get some energy."
Things didn't go much smoother for the Wildcats (17-10, 5-9).
They missed their first eight shots, couldn't make 3s and struggled to match the much bigger Boilermakers. Things got even bleaker when Northwestern got into deep foul trouble.
Somehow, though, Northwestern trailed just 51-46 with 8:24 to go.
"We just hung in there," coach Chris Collins said. "I thought we executed really well offensively early. We just didn't shoot the ball well early in the game. We were able to make some as the game wore on. Those wide open shots, for us to beat a good team like Purdue, we're going to have to hit."
Purdue opened the game by scoring the first eight points, then strung together two 6-0 runs but only led 27-15.
Northwestern finished the half with a three-point play from McIntosh and a 3 from Demps to get within 35-27, and when Gavin Skelly made one of two free throws with 15:58 left in the game, the Wildcats trailed just 39-35.
But the Boilermakers steadied themselves and finally took advantage of consecutive 3s from Cline and Hill to spur the decisive flurry that made it 64-50 with 4:39 left.
Northwestern didn't get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
In addition to Purdue's poor overall shooting percentage, it was 4 of 13 from 3-point range. Northwestern, meanwhile, shot 56 percent in the second half to improve its overall shooting percentage to 44.6 but finished 6 of 27 from beyond the arc.
After getting outrebounded for the first time all season Saturday at Michigan, the Boilermakers got back in sync Tuesday. They had a 45-24 advantage in rebounds and still had a 24-18 scoring advantage in the paint despite getting outscored 12-8 in the second half by the smaller, foul-prone Wildcats.
HOME, SWEET, HOME
Purdue is 15-1 at home this season and is tied for the fourth-most wins in one season at Mackey Arena. The last time the Boilers won that many games was 2008-09. Three teams have won 16 games inside the arena, and if the Boilermakers can beat No. 6 Maryland and Wisconsin in their final two home games, they will break the record.
Northwestern: Alex Olah had 12 points and two rebounds but was limited to 21 minutes because of foul trouble. ... After winning their first four road games, the Wildcats have lost five straight. ... They are 5-39 all-time at Mackey and are 5-8 when failing to make at least nine 3s in games this season.
Purdue: Was 21 of 28 from the free throw line, compared with five of eight for Northwestern, thanks to a 26-14 disparity in fouls called. ... The Boilermakers had a 36-12 scoring advantage off the bench. ... Hammons, the Big Ten's top active shot-blocker, had only one Tuesday.
Northwestern visits Michigan on Feb. 24.
Purdue visits No. 22 Indiana on Saturday.
Duke meets BC in ACC tourney
No. 15 seed Boston College (4-15, 2-11) vs. No. 10 seed Duke (11-11, 9-9)
McNeese St. faces SLU in Southland tourney
No. 9 seed McNeese State (10-13, 4-11) vs. No. 8 seed Southeastern Louisiana (7-17, 5-11)
Marquette meets Georgetown in Big East tourney
No. 9 seed Marquette (13-13, 8-11) vs. No. 8 seed Georgetown (9-12, 7-9)