for this game

Purdue downs Minnesota, wins fourth straight

Jan 23, 2009 - 5:46 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Sophomore guard Al Nolen gave a succinct analysis of Minnesota's prowess from the field on Thursday.

JaJuan Johnson scored 19 points as 18th-ranked Purdue won its fourth straight game, 70-62, over the cold-shooting and 20th-ranked Gophers, who couldn't escape Nolen's postgame wrath.

"We couldn't get the ball in the basket to save our lives," said Nolen, who had 17 points and four steals. "We just couldn't buy a basket, and that is basically why we lost."

Purdue, on the other hand, did just enough to get by.

E'Twaun Moore added 16 points for the Boilermakers (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten), who shot 47 percent (22-of-47) as they continued to rise in the conference standings.

Minnesota (16-3, 4-3), which is a surprise contender in the Big Ten this season, joins Purdue in a bunched group behind first-place Michigan State, which holds a 5-1 conference mark. Illinois also is at 4-2, while Penn State is 4-3.

The Golden Gophers had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 74-65 setback at Northwestern on Sunday after a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory over Wisconsin last Thursday.

They took their second straight loss in this one and were out of it from the start. At halftime, Purdue held a seven-point lead, which ballooned to as many as 16 in the second half on Johnson's dunk.

"I think that our success had a lot to do with our defense," Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

"We had a couple of cheap fouls there early. We were able to move our feet, play our man and play consistently on the defensive end and get some stops. If the ball isn't going in for you, if you're not making your free throws, you can still get stops."

But the Golden Gophers then went on a 9-1 run to cut their deficit to 58-50 on Nolen's two free throws with 4:57 left. Minnesota could get no closer than six the rest of the way.

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith attributed many of his team's shortcomings to poor post feeds.

"We've got to find somebody that can pass the ball inside," Smith said. "It was a big part of our problem tonight, but we will get that resolved."

When they did get it inside, the Gophers were able to find Ralph Sampson III - the son and namesake of the former college and NBA star - who had six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.

Lawrence Westbrook scored 12 points for Minnesota, which shot a putrid 28 percent (16-of-58) from the field.

Early in the first half, the Boilermakers already had committed seven turnovers. The Gophers, however, were just as sloppy.

Minnesota committed 12 first-half miscues, allowing Purdue to jump out to a 20-12 lead following free throws by Lewis Jackson with 8:54 left.

The Boilermakers were able to maintain their lead thanks to some horrendous shooting by the Gophers, who went 8-of-22 in the first half and 8-of-36 after halftime.

Minnesota started the second half 0-of-7 from 3-point range and 4-of-16 from the field, allowing Purdue to open its lead. The Gophers trailed, 50-37, following back-to-back threes by Purdue's Keaton Grant and Nemanja Calasan with 11 minutes to play.