Listen: Coach Matt PainterClick Here to view this Link. | Terone Johnson, Rapheal Davis and A.J. HammonsClick Here to view this Link. | William & Mary coach TonyShaverClick Here to view this Link.
Well, Purdue's final non-conference game prior to the opening of Big Ten play didn't go exactly as hoped, but the result was the desired one.
The Boilermakers rallied from a halftime deficit and the anxious second-half moments that followed in beating William & Mary 73-66 to take a 6-6 record into this week's conference opener against Illinois.
Purdue had numerous opportunities in both halves to push leads into comfortable margins, but as has been a storyline this season, often squandered its own rallies by allowing its opponent to answer with quick bursts.
As Coach Matt Painter said afterward, "We don't let people score six, seven, eight points in two minutes. We let them do it in like 30 seconds."
That tendency created an ebb and flow that saw the Boilermakers lead by as many as 10 in the first half only to trail by one at intermission. Or for it to lead by seven with just under 14 minutes left only to be tied with a little more than 11 remaining.
"We just compound our mistakes," Painter said, before openly pondering the most prudent uses for his timeouts when his team's giving ground. "Instead of making a mistake and just leaving it alone and moving forward, we make one mistake and it leads to the next mistake, and the next mistake. ... It happens so quick. But you can't call timeout every time somebody scores back-to-back baskets."
But the last run was the most important run.
Purdue led just 66-64 with 2:21 remaining, when freshman Rapheal Davis made what might have been the game's biggest play, crashing the boards to rebound Terone Johnson's miss. Davis drew a foul going back up and made two free throws.
It was a play that summarized the transformation the rookie has had to make in going from a prolific high school scorer to a player who in college must make such dirty-work plays.
"If you have the mentality of a winner," Davis said, "you always want to do what it takes to win. In high school, I was needed to score. Now I'm around good players. I just have to do little things, help the team win and have a dog mentality."
After Davis' free throws, William & Mary missed a three. Terone Johnson hit Jacob Lawson for a layup to put Purdue up six. William & Mary missed another three. Ronnie Johnson's two foul shots pushed the lead to eight and that was pretty much that.
But it was not easy. Few things for Purdue this season have been.
One thing that saw the Boilermakers through on Saturday was rebounding, one of its constants.
After getting outrebounded by five in the first half by the much-smaller, far less physical Tribe, Purdue held a 21-14 advantage in the second half.
Hammons again loomed large for the Boilermakers, scoring 14 points as William & Mary players scurried to surround him every time he touched the ball. Sometimes, he beat double teams. Others, Purdue passed it to him over the top where there was little the Tribe could do about it.
Between Hammons' play on the interior and Terone Johnson's drives to the basket, Purdue scored all its points in the final eight-and-a-half minutes - when the game was tied 58-58 - either around the rim or driving to the basket.
"We just did what Coach said, which was to just get the ball in the paint," said Terone Johnson, who scored 16 points with five assists to no turnovers, "so we could either get points in the paint or shots from the outside. Also, we had guys come off the bench like Rapheal and they gave us a lot of energy. That kept us going."
Lawson was central in that energy, as well, as the forward was a defensive menace, blocking three shots, and a factor offensively around the basket, making all three of his shots, all of them at the rim.
Ronnie Johnson endured some regrettable moments at point guard, but on paper, played one of his better games, scoring 11 points, with three steals and seven assists against just two turnovers.
The Boilermakers turned the ball over a season-low seven times, seemingly trending upward in that regard as Big Ten play looms, though the competition will get much stiffer.
Purdue found itself in a halftime hole after a botched 3-on-1 resulted in a three-pointer for William & Mary, giving it a 40-39 lead going into the locker room.
The Boilermakers might have been fortunate to only be down one, after seeing the Tribe shoot 60 percent in the first 20 minutes and out-rebounded its hosts.
The Boilermakers answered by scoring 13 of the second half's first 18 points, starting with an interior bucket from Hammons.
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