WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue knew the formula for an upset: A strong night on the glass. Limit the turnovers. And get major contributions by leaders Terone Johnson and D.J. Byrd.
It all came together Wednesday in a 68-61 victory against No. 11 Illinois in front of 9,874 fans at Mackey Arena. Johnson, a junior guard, scored a career-high 25 points. Byrd, a senior guard/forward, made four three-pointers and finished with 15 points as the Boilermakers (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten) opened conference play with a big victory.
I thought both of them were great. (Terone) played at both ends. That’s what we need him to do, coach matt Painter said. And I thought Byrd’s plays at the end were just some great hustle plays.
Byrd made a three-pointer in transition with 7:52 remaining to give Purdue a 49-47 lead.
He followed with another three to extend the lead to 52-48. Johnson then had a conventional three-point play to stretch Purdue’s lead to 55-48. Purdue built a 61-51 lead.
We’ve been down in the second half (of games) a lot this year. Instead of going our separate ways, we came together, Johnson said.
But the Illini (13-2, 0-1) rallied behind Brandon Paul, who had 15 points. Paul made back-to-back three-pointers to cut Purdue’s lead to 61-58 with 1:45 remaining. Illinois guard D.J. Richardson nailed a three-pointer with 30.8 seconds left to make it 63-61.
Jacob Lawson was fouled going to the basket with 21.5 seconds to go. He missed both free throws, but Byrd went to the floor, grabbed the ball before it went out of bounds and called a timeout.
I went and tried to split those guys and luckily got the ball before it went out of bounds, Byrd said. It was a hustle play.
Byrd was then fouled while making a layup with 20.1 seconds. He hit the free throw to make it 66-61 and ice the win.
We understand that we can win if we play the right way, play hard and play stronger than the other team, Byrd said. We can get wins like that. We have to continue to do that.