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January 13, 2013

Boilermakers power past Penn State

Listen: Coach Matt Painter | Player D.J. Byrd, Ronnie Johnson and A.J. Hammons | PennState coach Patrick Chambers

PDF: Purdue-Penn State Box Score

Without star point guard Tim Frazier - lost for the season to a blown Achilles - Penn State is hurting.

And in its 60-42 win over the Nittany Lions Sunday afternoon, Purdue sought to twist the knife by exploiting the void.

The Boilermakers (8-8 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) held guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall - Penn State's top two scorers, Newbill being Frazier's fill-in at the point - to a combined 15 points on 6-of-25 shooting in a dominant defensive performance.

"Those guys are good players. But they are not point guards," Coach Matt Painter said, referencing the bind Penn State is in without Frazier, one of the top returning guards in the Big Ten from last season. "So we wanted to get up to them and disrupt to the best of our ability and just try to wear them down, like a boxing match. Just stay with them and make them use a lot of energy bringing the ball up the court."

Newbill, Penn State's leading scorer averaging better than 15 per game, didn't scored until just 7:17 remained. By then, Purdue had pulled away for good.

Much of the credit goes to freshman point guard Ronnie Johnson, who primarily guarded Newbill, though brother Terone Johnson helped, as well.

"Coach Painter told me he doesn't like pressure, so, 'Give him pressure and keep the ball out of his hands as much as you can,'" Ronnie Johnson said. "And Big (A.J. Hammons) helped down low on the drives. He was there, so he couldn't get the shot that he wanted most of the time."

It added up to Penn State (8-8, 0-4) just barely shooting better than 25 percent and just barely cracking the 40-point mark. It was the fewest points Purdue's given up in a conference game since a 63-40 win over Iowa in mid-February of 2010.

"They did a great job of wearing us down and wearing him down, switching all screens and dribble hands-offs," Lion coach Patrick Chambers said. "I give the Johnson brothers credit, but I give their team defense credit, because they did a very nice job keeping us out of the paint and when you did get into the paint, it was very difficult to finish. Purdue did a great job. They played hard, they played together and I want to try to get my team to do the same thing."

It was an overwhelming defensive performance by Purdue, which snapped a two-game losing streak and dropped Penn State to 0-4 in the league.

But the scoreboard did not immediately reflect it.

With 3:15 left in the first half, Purdue led by just two, even though Penn State couldn't score on the Boilermakers straight-up.

But Penn State was able to grab enough offensive rebounds - its first seven points were results of second chances - and benefit from enough turnovers to hang around.

The Boilermakers turned the ball over 11 times in the first half.

"It was more of Purdue beating Purdue," Painter said.

A 9-0 Boilermaker run, though, granted the hosts the separation that had eluded them through most of the first 20 minutes, though, even if a halfcourt shot by the Lions stemmed Purdue's momentum some heading into the locker room.

Defense remained Purdue's constant in the second half, though, and its issues of the first subsided. The Boilermakers turned it over just three times in the second half and cruised to a 42-33 rebounding win.

Five straight D.J. Byrd points and a Ronnie Johnson layup blew the game wide open, giving Purdue a 49-30 lead with seven-and-a-half minutes left in a game in which Penn State struggled so badly on offense that a five-point deficit may as well have been 15.

And so Purdue scored a blowout win, playing an excellent game on defense, but certainly not a complete one all-around.

Turnovers and Penn State's offensive rebounding in the first half were issues, and Purdue won by 18 despite making just 10-of-21 from the foul line.

"Some of us may have underestimated some of their offensive rebounding abilities," Byrd said. "… And we had some turnovers, some mental mistakes. That stuff is fixable, but without that, I felt like we could have pushed the lead.

"But we have to better job making free throws. We made (less than) half our free throws. We have to get in the gym and work on that so we can start rewarding ourselves for getting to the hole and getting good shots."

Purdue got plenty of them, shooting 45 percent and generating 32 points in the paint.

Ronnie Johnson scored a game-high 13 points, eight of them in the second half, most of those while Penn State remained in striking distance.

Byrd added 12, making three of the four three-pointers he launched.

With Purdue hammering the ball inside against Penn State's zone, Hammons scored a dozen to go along with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, recording his first career double-double.

Freshman Rapheal Davis, a starter Sunday afternoon, added 10 points and five rebounds.

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