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Boilermakers use late first-half run to pull away

– A rally to close the first half enabled Purdue to ultimately pull away from Penn State in the second half as the Boilermakers evened their Big Ten Conference record at 5-5 with a 58-49 victory Tuesday night over Penn State.

The Nittany Lions (8-14) are now 0-10 in conference play despite outrebounding the league’s top rebounding team 42-37 and watching Purdue (12-11) shoot 0 for 10 from three-point range.

Ronnie Johnson scored 16 points, 12 of them in the second half for Purdue. A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot freshman center, added 15 for the Boilermakers, who took control of a back-and-forth game with about 9 minutes to play after a first-half rally from a nine-point deficit.

“We need to keep it simple,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We get ahead of ourselves a bit too much and we force and we try to take on the world.”

Both coaches agreed on two things: Johnson was the spark behind the Boilermakers’ victory and the game turned during the final 4 minutes of the first half and opening 4 minutes of the second.

“We played a great 32 minutes,” said Penn State coach Patrick Chambers. “We had a couple of great looks and the shots just didn’t fall.”

The Boilermakers (12-11) struggled through shooting woes, going 20 for 49 overall. But it was considerably better than Penn State’s 19-for-62 (30.6 percent) performance.

Combined, the two teams were 2 for 30 from three-point range.

Johnson was 7 for 12 from the field and also managed four defensive rebounds.

Penn State’s leading scorers, D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, average 18 points per game, but Newbill had 17 and Purdue limited Marshall to just seven.

Purdue’s game plan, Painter said, was to “not let Penn State get any action off the ball screen with their four man. So we switched a lot (and) we wanted to make sure he (Marshall) didn’t get an angle. We wanted to keep the ball out of his hands.”

Both teams struggled from the perimeter, Painter said, and 11 of Hammons’ 15 points came from the free-throw line (11 for 12).

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