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January 27, 2013

Sweet relief

Listen: Coach Matt Painter | Players D.J. Byrd, Donnie Hale and Terone Johnson | Iowa coach Fran McCaffery

PDF: Purdue-Iowa Box Score

Purdue again struggled to protect a lead Sunday against Iowa, blowing an 11-point second-half cushion to trail late.

But as might not have been the case months or weeks ago, the Boilermakers settled themselves and won in overtime, 65-62.

Yes, it's frustrating for Purdue, its coaches, players and followers to see the Boilermakers still encountering the same problems when playing from ahead, this time letting slip away a 45-34 lead in the span of just more than two minutes.

But by the same token, it was heartening to see the Boilermakers regain their lost composure, steady themselves whereas they might otherwise have been rattled and win a game that shouldn't have required such drama.

After Iowa surged to a 53-50 lead with about two minutes and 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Terone Johnson used a towering A.J. Hammons screen to score the game-tying layup, coming out of a timeout.

"I have to credit that to Coach (Matt) Painter," said Terone Johnson, after scoring a team-high 17 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds. "He drew up a great play. We set a double ball-screen at the top of their zone. Big A.J. blasted inside and it ended up being an easy lay-up for me. I had no one in my face."

It was the junior's job to be in someone else's face.

With a last-shot opportunity for the win, Johnson guarded Roy Devyn Marble, whose shot missed.

"I was just trying to stay away from him and not foul him," Johnson said. "I tried to make it tough on him to the best of my ability."

Then, Purdue caught what might have been a game-deciding break, as Melsahn Basabe couldn't quite put in the ensuing offensive rebound.

"There was a little bit of luck, too," senior D.J. Byrd said, "that they didn't get that tip-in."

Having dodged another bullet, the Boilermakers started fresh in overtime, but benefited from Aaron White missing a pair of foul shots with a minute-and-a-half left that could have tied the game.

Purdue made its own luck from there, making the necessary and free throws and securing the most essential of rebounds to lock down the win. The Boilermakers led by six before White's cosmetic three at the buzzer finalized the scoring.

Afterward, Boilermaker players, maybe more relieved than excited, said they talked their way through what could have been a profoundly disappointing loss, considering the circumstances.

"We had that run … where we couldn't put them away and they kept coming back and took a lead," Terone Johnson said. "But it was always someone on the bench or someone who was in the game saying, 'Don't lose your head. Let's go. Keep playing.' We did that when we got into overtime and that's what got us the win."

Ultimately, it was defense that saw Purdue through.

Iowa shot 15 percent in the first half, 4-of-26.

Yet, Purdue led only 19-16 at the break, after finishing the first half making just four of its final 23 field goal attempts.

Even after Iowa had surged to the lead, defense was the Boilermakers' savior.

"We kept saying, 'The game's not over, keeping playing defense, stay with the ball through ball screens and don't let them get in the paint,'" Byrd said. "In overtime, I think we did a pretty good job doing that. They still got a couple offensive boards, but it's a win in our book and I guess that's all that matters."

But Purdue would have preferred, obviously, for it to not have been so stressful.

An 11-point lead with eight minutes remaining against an opponent that had struggled all day to score, that would seem to have been a recipe for a comfortable victory.

"You're at the end of January and you're a freshman and you've played a lot of minutes," Painter said. "You shouldn't be a freshman anymore. Understanding time and score and the shot clock … we're still take some (bad) shots at crucial times and that's not just younger guys. When it's maybe the most important possession of the game up to that point, we're having two or three of those the last four or five minutes of the game. We take a shot that's not playing to our strengths."

Purdue shot just 39 percent itself.

Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers with 17, playing all but one of the game's 45 minutes, while Ronnie Johnson added 15. Byrd scored 10 points with seven rebounds and four assists, with no turnovers.

Hammons grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked three shots and scored seven points before fouling out in OT.

But of all Purdue's individual performances, the one the Boilermakers clearly don't win without was Donnie Hale's.

The redshirt freshman forward scored 12 points, eight of them in the final nine minutes of regulation, including a tip-in of a Hammons miss with 1:45 left.

Hale also grabbed five rebounds with a block and an assist in 29 minutes.

"Any time your shot is falling, you're going to have more energy," said Hale, after his best all-around game of the season. "I really tried to focus on defense and tried to lock my guy down as much as possible and do little things. But when your shot is falling it does give you more confidence and help you play with more energy."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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