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February 21, 2012Though his minutes had been dwindling in Big Ten play, guard Anthony Johnson still had made an appearance in every Purdue game this season.
Until he returned to his home state when the Boilermakers played at Illinois last week and his parents were in the stands watching.
Johnson admitted was disappointed with not getting any time, but he responded well in the next game against Michigan State.
And he'll have to continue to.
With Kelsey Barlow off the team, Johnson likely will see an increase in his playing time the rest of the way. His 24 minutes against the Spartans - he had 10 points and two rebounds - were the most he'd played in a league game this year.
But Johnson said his mind-set hasn't changed despite Barlow's dismissal and with his likely expanded role.
"It's still the same. When I get my opportunity, I just be aggressive and be ready," Johnson said before Tuesday's practice. "I wish Kelsey was still here with us, and that bothers me. That bothers me every day. But my mind-set never changed. I was always waiting for my opportunity and ready to be aggressive."
In his first 12 Big Ten games - before Michigan State - Johnson averaged 11.5 minutes per game but never getting more than 18. Part of that limited participation was linked to production: Johnson made only 28 percent of his shots in that stretch and struggled on defense.
But he provided a nice spark on offense against the No. 7 Spartans, making 4-of-8 shots, including 2-of-3 three-pointers. He made three consecutive baskets for eight points in a personal run late in the second half.
"I definitely went through a drought for awhile in the Big Ten. That's mainly my fault," Johnson said. "(I) probably was just over-thinking things and trying to get the flow of things because it's different than (non-conference) stuff. Hopefully, I can continue to bring the spark that I brought last game but just with Ws."
While providing a lift offensively is nice, Johnson knows his playing time is tied to how capable of a defender he can be.
And, so far, by his own estimation, he's not been that great. He said his points of emphasis have been in defending better off-the-ball by fighting through screens and staying on his line - not gambling and sticking to his assignment.
"If I step up (on defense), it means more minutes for me," Johnson said. "(Barlow) being gone, I'm going to try even harder. It definitely hurts us that we don't have him on the defensive end and have his versatility in guarding different people."
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