Listen: Matt PainterClick Here to view this Link. | D.J. Byrd, Anthony Johnson and Donnie HaleClick Here to view this Link. | Bucknell coach Dave PaulsenClick Here to view this Link.
After Purdue's freshman-heavy lineup went down to the wire with Bucknell's many seniors Saturday night, the Boilermakers had the ball right where they wanted it down three in the closing seconds.
Purdue got the ball to its senior for an open three to tie the game, but D.J. Byrd's shot caught rim and missed with three seconds left. A couple free throws later and the Bison left Mackey Arena with a 70-65 win.
"The exact worst thing that could have happened to us happened to us," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said after two of his defenders fell down, freeing the senior for an open look. "And we just dodged a bullet."
Purdue played without top returning scorer Terone Johnson, who injured his ankle in practice Tuesday and was ruled out for the opener a few hours before tip-off.
"You miss him," said Anthony Johnson, who moved into the starting lineup in his namesake's place and came away with eight points and nine assists to no turnovers. "That's at least 15 points from one of our starters (we're missing). It hurts you.
"But at the same time, we don't make any excuses. They came here and outplayed us. They out-toughed us to some balls, we took some bad shots and it led to a loss."
Coach Matt Painter's stock response to questions about Terone Johnson's absence was his standard, "Injuries are part of the game."
It wasn't lost on Painter what was evident to those in Mackey Arena how Purdue's young team didn't exactly play with veteran poise at certain junctures.
"We only had nine turnovers," Painter said, "but we took 8-10 shots that were bad shots and bad shots are turnovers.
"We had situations where adversity set in and we compounded our mistakes."
Some of those were turnovers - six second-half Purdue giveaways led to nine Bison points - but some were poorly chosen shots.
After the game, Byrd, Anthony Johnson and forward Donnie Hale each took their own shares of the blame for certain shots that might have been ill-advised, though freshmen were guilty of a few, as well.
"I think we have to get used to moving the ball around more," said Hale, a redshirt freshman who led Purdue with 15 points in his first official game. "Even if we think we have an open shot right away, it'll come back."
The Boilermakers actually shot a better percentage in the second half than they did the first, shooting just under 46 percent combined.
But the bad ones were burned in players' minds afterward.
"If we're going to beat a team like this," Byrd said, "we can't have those mishaps."
Among other things.
Purdue was only 7-of-15 from the foul line. Bucknell shot 10 more free throws and outscored the Boilermakers by 13 at the stripe. Ronnie Johnson scored 12 points, but the point guard was just 2-of-5 at the line.
And the Bison outrebounded Purdue significantly after halftime, 20-15, after being down at the half.
There wasn't a more costly rebound than the one Bucknell got with about 1:45 left. After Byrd's three-point play cut a five-point deficit to two, Purdue's defense was stout enough to force Bucknell to miss a jumper bad, maybe too bad.
The brick caromed right to an unblocked-out Mike Muscala, and the star big man dunked it easily for a key bucket that helped keep the Boilermakers at arm's length.
Yet Purdue kept close. Byrd missed a jumper in the lane with 20 seconds left that would have tied it, but Hale couldn't come down with the offensive rebound and fouled. Later, Byrd's three missed, sealing the Boilermakers' fate against a Bucknell team considered one of college basketball's top mid-major's this season, a 25-win team from a year ago that beat Arizona in the NIT.
The game was part of the 2K Sports Classic, which next pits Purdue against Hofstra on Sunday, then sends it to New York City for two games next week.
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