By Rob Hughes
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – In 49 other states it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana, so the saying goes.
Wednesday night’s game between storied basketball programs Purdue and Indiana did not disappoint.
JaJuan Johnson led the No. 8 ranked Purdue Boilermakers with 20 points and nine rebounds in a 72-61 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers in front of a raucous crowd of 17,032 at Assembly Hall.
The Boilermakers (23-5, 12-3) won their fifth straight game against the Hoosiers (12-16, 3-12), and although they led from start to finish, it was not comfortable for the Boilermakers for most of the game.
Purdue jumped out to a 7-0 lead and would not be caught. The Boilermakers were able to add to their lead despite losing JaJuan Johnson to the bench with two fouls in the first half. Freshman Terone Johnson was able to pick up the elder, All-American Johnson’s slack and scored nine points in the first half.
“Terone really got us going, three 3’s in the first half,” Purdue Coach Matt Painter said. “He was a huge boost off the bench.”
After Christian Watford sank two free-throws with just under five minutes remaining, Purdue went on a 13-4 run to close the half, including a one minute stretch where the Boilermakers hit three three-pointers. The Hoosiers had allowed Purdue some breathing room with the score 41-31 at the break.
The Boilermakers’ senior guard E’Twaun Moore was able to keep his team’s emotions in check throughout the game despite his team never putting the game fully out of reach. Moore finished the game with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and was clearly the leader for the Boilermakers as their lead waxed and waned.
“My teammates just do a good job of finding me, and we’re just trying to win ball games,” Moore said. “That’s all that matters right now.”
Once Johnson returned to the court in the second half it was a different game. Johnson scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, and played a huge role in the Boilermakers drawing three fouls on the Hoosiers in the first possession of the second half.
The Hoosiers would be heard from though and after letting the Boilermakers’ lead balloon to 13, came charging back to within three, behind eight points from Bloomington’s own Jordan Hulls. Johnson was too steady though and he hit a jumper then a hook shot on a beautiful pass by point guard Lewis Jackson.
Johnson’s three-point play ignited the Boilermakers on the defensive end of the floor. Purdue only allowed 10 points from the Hoosiers over the final 8:40.
The Boilermakers simply shot the ball better on this night, converting 25-of-50 field goals, while only allowing the Hoosiers 19 made field goals on the same number of shots. Watford finished with a team high 18 points for the Hoosiers.
Purdue has continued to play with a chip on its shoulder after they were largely counted out when Robbie Hummel went down with an injury before the season.
“A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the season but we always had faith,” Moore said. “We always had faith that we would be a good team and we were going to get some wins.”
The Boilermakers took another step towards their goal of a Big Ten regular season championship with the win against their biggest rival. The Boilermakers have won five straight and will look to get a win on the road versus a desperate Michigan State Spartans team.
The Hoosiers schedule does not get any easier, as they face Ohio State in Columbus followed by games against Wisconsin and Illinois. It will be tough to end their season on a positive note as they struggle to get out of last place in the Big Ten.