COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—The first time Purdue and Ohio State played this season, JaJuan Johnson scored just four points and his Boilermakers blew a big lead while losing at home.
The 6-foot-10 junior wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Johnson scored 24 points and consistently hit big shots to build the lead and keep No. 9 Ohio State at bay in No. 4 Purdue’s 60-57 victory Wednesday night.
“I felt like the last game we played it wasn’t one of my best games,” Johnson said. “I thought I had to get more involved.”
Boy, did he. He hit 11 of 17 shots from the field, made both of his foul shots and also had seven rebounds and three assists. Whenever the Boilermakers needed a shot, a rebound or a blocked shot, Johnson was their guy.
The Boilermakers (22-3, 10-3) tightened the race for first place in the Big Ten with 11th-ranked Michigan State (21-6, 11-3).
“It’s a huge win for us,” Johnson said. “This puts us closer to our goal of winning the Big Ten championship.”
The Buckeyes (20-7, 10-4), who were knocked a game behind Michigan State in the conference, raved about Johnson’s play.
“He made shots,” said Ohio State’s Jon Diebler, who missed a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. “Those are some tough shots. That’s a heck of a basketball player right there.”
E’Twaun Moore had 15 points and Keaton Grant added 13 off the bench for Purdue, which had lost in all nine of its previous trips to Value City Arena. The Boilermakers won their eighth straight game overall.
Evan Turner had 29 points, William Buford 11 and Diebler 10 for Ohio State, which had won its last nine Big Ten games.
Johnson had 15 points as Purdue scored the first seven points and never trailed in building a 36-23 halftime lead. That was similar to the first meeting, when they led 41-29 behind Robbie Hummel’s 29 first-half points. This time, the lead was almost the same—only Hummel didn’t score a point. Johnson carried the load, instead.
“We put ourself in a good position,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “You know they’re going to make a run, can they make a good enough run and get that lead and then kind of push back on us? … But we hung on and obviously made enough plays to win the game.”
The victory was the Boilermakers’ fourth against Top-10 teams this season while handing Ohio State its first home loss after winning its first 15 games.
Turner said the game slipped away in the first 20 minutes.
“We were digging our way out of a hole for most of the game,” he said.
Down by 15 early in the second half, the Buckeyes rode Turner to get back into the game. He had a three-point play and hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 43-37 with just over 14 minutes left.
Turner had 11 of Ohio State’s first 16 points in the second half, but Johnson was unstoppable at the other end. He had a three-point play on a short turnaround and then, with the shot clock winding down, swished an 18-foot jumper from the elbow to push the lead to 48-39.
Buford, who had only one field goal in the first 29 minutes, hit a 3-pointer and another long jumper to pull the Buckeyes as close as 48-46 with 9:46 left. But they could never pull even.
With Purdue ahead 58-53 with 1:12 remaining, Moore nailed two free throws. After Dallas Lauderdale’s tip-in narrowed the lead to five points, Chris Kramer missed the front end of a bonus situation. Turner then hit a shot off glass to make it a one-possession game.
Moore missed a contested layup with 16 seconds left, giving Ohio State another chance. The Buckeyes hurried the ball down the floor and fed Buford, but his shot on a drive was blocked by Kramer. Diebler recovered the ball, but was confronted by two defenders as time sifted away. He split them and got to the top of the key, but his jumper was off the mark.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta didn’t call a timeout. He said it wouldn’t have mattered.
“I couldn’t have drawn up a play that got us a better look,” he said. “That was a wide-open 21-footer.”
The Boilermakers said that when they saw Diebler break into the open, they thought the game was going to overtime.
But instead, they maintained their hot streak—just barely.
“In the grand scheme of things, we were one possession better than them,” Painter said.