Men’s basketball: Boilermakers avert disaster with comeback win
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org January 12, 2014 9:14PM
Leslee Smith, A.J. Hammons
Updated: January 12, 2014 9:21PM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue appeared to be a precarious position late in its game against Nebraska on Sunday at Mackey Arena.
But the Boilermakers proceeded to hold the Cornhuskers scoreless for six minutes, avoiding a potentially severely damaging loss to come away with a 70-64 win, their first of the Big Ten season.
Purdue (11-5, 1-2) trailed 58-55 with 6:43 left, then reeled off nine straight points to seize a 64-58 lead, before Terran Petteway finally scored for Nebraska (8-8, 0-4) with 43.9 seconds left.
“We just stayed poised,” senior guard Sterling Carter said. “We just had faith in each other. We didn’t let being down three with six minutes to go rattle us.”
Sophomore point guard Ronnie Johnson helped spark the Boilermakers’ late surge by scoring five points, including the first four on a jumper and a pair of free throws. A.J. Hammons bounced in a basket after he had blocked a shot at the other end, and Carter had a driving layup.
Johnson went just 2-of-8 from the line in the game’s final 5:12, but Carter went 3-of-4 and Hammons 2-of-2 in the final 42.1 seconds.
“We fought hard, and that’s what we need to do every game,” Johnson said. “We stayed composed, and when you do stuff like that, it’s a winning vibe.”
Hammons had 18 points and four blocked shots despite again dealing with a degree of foul trouble, with Jay Simpson surfacing in reserve. Johnson had 14 points. And graduate transfer Carter might have been the game’s key player with eight points and seven rebounds.
“I just felt like I had more energy and better focus coming into the game,” Carter said. “Just wanting be out there with my team and being in the game in crunch time.”
It was the second straight productive game for Carter — he also played well at Minnesota — who stood out defensively and didn’t commit a turnover against Nebraska in a game in which it was an issue for the Boilermakers, at least in the second half.
“He probably was the difference in the game for us,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, adding Carter has been in a difficult spot behind the team’s most experienced player in senior Terone Johnson.
“He’s proven the last couple games we’re better with him in there than not. That’s what you want to do as a player — you want to get a string of consistency together and force your coach’s hand.”
The Cornhuskers had grabbed a 51-50 lead with 10:16 left in the game when Deverell Biggs made two free throws following his steal, the Boilermakers’ fifth turnover in six possessions. Carter nailed a 3-pointer with 8:31 left, Purdue’s first field goal since Terone Johnson’s basket gave it a 48-42 lead at the 13:15 mark, but Nebraska emerged from a flurry with that 58-55 edge.
The Boilermakers had led 35-32 at halftime, aided by Simpson scoring five straight points within the final two minutes, including his first career 3-pointer in six attempts. After Hammons headed to the bench with three fouls with 17:07 left in the second half, Simpson’s hook shot 45 seconds later gave Purdue a 44-38 lead, its largest of the game to that point.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles called the stretch at the end of the first half “critical.”
“I thought we had done a pretty good job on all their perimeters; their posts just were getting us all day,” said Miles, whose team received a game-high 19 points from Petteway.