By JIM LAISE
His coach had called this an impactful game and Purdue’s Terone Johnson made an impact.
Johnson scored 20 points and made a couple of key free throws late to lead his Boilermakers to a key non-conference victory over West Virginia, 73-70, on Sunday.
Terone Johnson connected on 5-of-16 field goals and 8-of-12 free throws. None of the free throws were more important than those he took late in the game.
He got support from his brother Ronnie, who chipped in 14 points, and Basil Smotherman came through with 11.
West Virginia, which dropped to 7-5, saw freshman center Devin Williams connect for a career-high 20 points and recorded his fourth double-double of his young career. He brought down a game-tying high of rebounds (12).
Williams received support from teammates Eron Harris (24) and Juwan Staten (14).
Purdue (10-3) led by as many as eight, 52-44, with 10:36 remaining in the game; however, West Virginia outscored its visitor 12-6 to make it 58-56 with 6:26 to go.
The Mountaineers cut it to a bucket difference, 60-58, with 5:05 showing, but the resilient Boilermakers, playing in what coach Matt Painter had termed “a huge game for us” pushed ahead 69-61 with 1:25 showing.
Terone Johnson split a pair of free throws to make the score 71-65 with 21 seconds to go and West Virginia, fouling to get the ball back, sent the 57 percent free throw shooter to the line again with 4.3 to go. He again made and missed a shot for the 73-70 lead.
“It just seemed like everybody had an even keel down the stretch,” Terone Johnson said. “When they made a run or it got loud in there, Coach just told us to move the ball and I thought we did that really well. We made some shots down the stretch that really helped us stay in the game and keep the lead.”
WVU’s Harris tried to get a shot off near the buzzer, but Johnson blocked it.
“It just boosted up our confidence a lot. We’ve got Ohio State (Dec.31) and going into that game knowing that we just played a tough away game, we should go in there with pride and be able to take them down,” said Ronnie Johnson.
West Virginia held an eight-point lead and Purdue was up by five at the half, though it ended with the Boilermakers ahead 35-33.
It took the visitors 4:02 to score during a first-half span. West Virginia was ahead 14-6 with 14:19 showing when the Boilermakers connected on two straight triples and a layup for a 14-all tie.
There were 11 lead changes and seven ties in the first 20 minutes.
This was an important game for both teams in terms of what it might mean for their respective post-seasons.
West Virginia has lost to Virginia Tech, nationally ranked Wisconsin, Missouri and Gonzaga and now Purdue by a total of 28 points. The Mountaineers have yet to secure what might be an important victory in terms of RPI points.
Likewise, Purdue owned a home victory over Boston College, but otherwise had no signature victories during its season.
Both teams have been inconsistent thus far.
Terone Johnson helped change that, along with Ronnie, who handed out four assists, and A.J. Hammons, who hauled down 12 rebounds.
West Virginia was a masterful 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) from the free throw line, but could not get it done from beyond the 3-point arc (a paltry 3-of-18 for 16.7 percent).
Purdue held a 45-38 advantage on the backboards and Painter’s bench outscored Bob Huggins’ 25-4.
Huggins’ Mountaineers have now won 51 of their last 54 games at home in December. WVU is 70-5 at home against non-conference teams in their last 11 years, including 51 of their last 54.
Smotherman 5-9 1-2 11, Carroll 1-1 0-0 2, T. Johnson 5-16 8-12 20, R. Johnson 5-13 3-7 14, Davis 0-0 1-2 1, Carter 2-5 0-0 6, Scott 2-4 0-0 4, Hammons 2-5 2-2 6, Stephens 3-6 1-1 9, Simpson 0-0 0-0 0, Peck 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 16-26 73.
WEST VIRGINIA (7-5)
Dibo 0-2 0-0 0, Williams 6-12 8-9 20, Staten 5-10 4-5 14, Harris 9-18 4-5 24, Henderson 2-10 3-4 8, Connor 0-0 0-0 0, Adrian 2-7 0-0 4, Browne 0-1 0-0 0, Watkins 0-5 0-0 0, Noreen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-65 19-23 70.
Halftime—Purdue 35-33. 3-Point Goals—Purdue 7-18 (Carter 2-5, T. Johnson 2-5, Stephens 2-5, R. Johnson 1-2, Smotherman 0-1), West Virginia 3-18 (Harris 2-7, Henderson 1-6, Dibo 0-2, Adrian 0-3). Fouled Out—Adrian. Rebounds—Purdue 45 (Hammons 12), West Virginia 38 (Williams 12). Assists—Purdue 11 (R. Johnson 4), West Virginia 8 (Staten 4). Total Fouls—Purdue 25, West Virginia 23. A—10,019.