Purdue rallies to win, other scores
Airballs fell silently short. Balls that did find the rim clanked harmlessly off.
The shooting was so bad—28.6 percent—that after one errant miss by JaJuan Johnson, Purdue coach Matt Painter eyed his leading scorer with exasperation as Johnson ran back upcourt, the coach’s arms stretched wide and his hands raised as if to say, “What was that?”
But the No. 14 Boilermakers said their coach made just one calm request after the first half: Come out hard in the second.
They did, blasting the Illini with 54 second-half points, outrebounding them 28-9 over that stretch and locking up a comeback 81-70 win.
“That first half, we shot terrible—I was missing layups,” said Johnson, who finished with 24 points, sounding disgusted with himself over the memory. “When you make shots, it looks a lot better.”
The Illini (16-9, 6-6 Big Ten) led or were tied for all but 1:17 of the first half and went to the locker room up 32-27. But they knew, coach Bruce Weber said, that a storm was coming.
“We told our guys, ‘When you watch them, there’s always one point in the game, they always turn it up,’” Weber said. “And they turned it up.”
The result keeps the Boilermakers (20-5, 9-3) two games back and within reach of first-place Ohio State. The Illini, meanwhile, drop back to the middle of the Big Ten pack, and—just three days after a big road win at Minnesota—were left pointing fingers over who was to blame.
“A couple of us play hard and then three other people don’t play hard. I’s not going to work,” said Mike Davis, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Boilermakers started their second-half push with a 10-4 run that gave them just their second lead of the afternoon. And they made it stick.
E’Twaun Moore, who finished with 20 points, hit a three-pointer with 16:05 to play that put Purdue up 37-36.
Mike Davis made a pair of free throws with 12:48 left to cut Purdue’s lead to 45-44. But Terone Johnson hit a 3-pointer 23 seconds later, and Ryne Smith followed that with a layup that made the score
As much as JaJuan Johnson and Moore hurt Illinois in the second half, Weber said, role players like Smith made key shots that stung.
No matter how frustrated the coach looked on the sideline, Moore said Painter didn’t lose his temper at halftime.
“He just said we’ve got to step it up,” Moore said. “Just come out the first five minutes and try to pick up the tempo.”
After Thursday’s win raised Illinois’ hopes for a strong finish and an NCAA tournament berth, the Illini said they let one slip away Sunday.
“We got out-toughed—we didn’t play as hard as we should’ve played and could’ve played,” Davis said.
Illinois was led by Brandon Paul’s 23 points. D.J. Richardson finished with 13. Demetri McCamey returned to the starting lineup after playing off the bench against Minnesota, but finished with just 4 points, 10.8 below his average.
Purdue takes on No. 13 Wisconsin at home on Wednesday before hosting Ohio State next Sunday.
Painter said that, no matter how tempting, he and his team had to forget the Buckeyes for now.
“If you let guys float talk about a Big Ten championship,” he said, “you’re about to get beat.”
-- Penn State 65, Northwestern 41—At State College, Pa., Talor Battle, bothered by a sore left ankle, had 19 points to pass 2,000 for his career and the Nittany Lions overwhelmed poor-shooting Northwestern in a decisive second-half run.
Tim Frazier had 12 points and seven assists and Jeff Brooks scored 14 in his first start since dislocating his right shoulder nearly two weeks ago to help the Nittany Lions
(13-11, 6-7) snap a three-game losing streak.
JerShon Cobb had 10 points to lead Northwestern (14-10,
-- Minnesota 62, Iowa 45—At Iowa City, Iowa, Trevor Mbakwe scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half and Minnesota broke its four-game losing streak in emphatic fashion.
Rodney Williams added 13 points for the Gophers (17-8,
6-7), who put an end to their longest skid under coach Tubby Smith by dominating once-surging Iowa over the final 30 minutes.
Minnesota erased an early 14-6 deficit with a 24-6 run to end the first half.
Bryce Cartwright had 11 points and seven assists to lead Iowa (10-15, 3-10), which shot just 34 percent from the floor.
and 21 percent (6 of 28) from 3-point range.
“At times our execution wasn’t that bad. We just couldn’t get anything to go down,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Gophers came into Iowa City in crisis mode, with their NCAA tournament hopes suddenly in question. They left with a crucial win over an Iowa team that had been playing much better than its record would indicate.
“We needed this game bad. Four games is tough,” said Mbakwe, who was 10 of 11 from the line after entering the game as a 58.6 percent free-throw shooter. “I think it kind of showed how hard we work.”
After Minnesota’s last defeat, 71-62 at home to Illinois, Smith challenged his team in hopes of snapping the Gophers out of their funk. He made just one change to the starting lineup from the last two games though, going with forward Colton Iverson instead of guard Austin Hollins.
It didn’t really work much early. But Minnesota got rolling after that, outscoring Iowa 42-13 in a 22-minute stretch.
“I think our guys responded the right way. We were focused, ready to play and we had great balance,” Smith said.
The Gophers owned the boards early, outrebounding Iowa 21-12 while scoring 12 points off of nine Iowa turnovers.
Minnesota’s defense took over in the second half. The Gophers held Iowa to just seven points in the first 12 minutes after the break as their comfortable lead turned insurmountable.
“I think it’s clear once we started going south, we were not a confident group,” McCaffery said.
Iverson finished with four points and six rebounds in 28 minutes. But Minnesota’s size bothered the Hawkeyes all game, as it outrebounded the Hawkeyes 38-25 and outscored them 34-14 in the paint.
Though Iowa has almost no shot at playing past the Big Ten tournament, the Hawkeyes were a missed jumper away from entering Sunday’s game on a three-game winning streak.
On Wednesday, Iowa pushed No. 13 Wisconsin — which went on to hand No. 1 Ohio State its first loss Saturday — to overtime before falling 62-59. The Hawkeyes nearly won it in regulation, but Cartwright’s short jumper from the baseline bounced off the rim and out.
Iowa’s momentum was stunted by the Gophers, who brought the Hawkeyes down to earth with that late first-half run and didn’t let up.
“We just knew we didn’t want it to get worse,” Mbakwe said. “We’ve been kind of digging ourselves holes this whole season, and we knew it was either know or never.”