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Johnson's free throws lift Purdue over Northwestern

Jan 16, 2009 - 5:46 AM EVANSTON, Illinois (Ticker) -- JaJuan Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left to cap a second-half comeback as No. 19 Purdue scraped out a 63-61 win over Northwestern on Thursday.

Robbie Hummel scored eight of his 15 points over the final 5:46 and Johnson finished with 13 for the Boilermakers (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten), who scored 42 points in the second half and used a 20-7 run over the final 6:50 to clinch the victory.

"At halftime, everyone was saying, 'This is our Big Ten championship right here,'" Hummel told the Chicago Tribune. "We were fighting for our lives, to be honest."

Keaton Grant's 3-pointer with 1:12 left gave Purdue its first lead of the game, 61-59. The Wildcats (8-6, 0-4) tied it at 61-61 on Kevin Coble's layup and had a chance to regain the lead, but Jeremy Nash failed to convert a layup on a 3-on-1 fast break and Purdue got one more chance.

Johnson took the ball in the low post and was shoved in the back by Craig Moore with 2.2 seconds left, leading to the winning free throws.

"We did a pretty good job with their push," Coble told the newspaper. "But we can't do a pretty good job. We have to do a great job. We can't just withstand it. We have to push back."

Northwestern jumped out to a 14-4 lead early in the first half as Coble and Moore combined for nine points. The Wildcats were sharp from beyond the arc in the opening period, knocking down 6-of-10 3-point attempts to take a 34-21 lead into the break.

The Boilermakers shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from the floor in the first 20 minutes but missed five of six free-throw attempts and allowed Northwestern to get 29 shots off.

The slow first half did not carry over after the break, however, as Purdue came out on fire in the second half. Chris Kramer joined Hummel and Johnson as the three combined for 26 points in the final 20 minutes.

Northwestern went in the other direction, shooting just 28 percent (7-of-25) and getting outrebounded, 33-17, in the second half.

Moore and Coble finished with 16 points apiece for the Wildcats, who lost for the 21st time in their last 22 Big Ten contests.

"I'll never say this, but I'm saying it now -- it's going to be hard for me to go in the locker room and see those guys, because they played well," Wildcats coach Bill Carmody told the Tribune. "It's a hard one."