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January 8, 2013

Johnson has mixed night; Ohio State notes





Freshman Ronnie Johnson had seven assists, six rebounds and 11 points.

He had only two turnovers in 35 minutes.

He had two steals, using nifty moves to pick the pockets of Ohio State point guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, and showed some tenacious defense full court at times.

But Purdue's point guard also missed 10 of his 15 shots. He made only one of his five free throws. He struggled to keep his man in front of him at times, leading to points.

And when the Boilermakers had pulled within six points with about two minutes to play, Johnson had a wild drive early in the shot clock that not only missed but that Ohio State answered with a basket on the other end to stretch the lead back to eight.

Johnson's night was much like Purdue's in a 74-64 loss to the No. 15 Buckeyes: Spurts of competitive, solid, smart play mixed with moments of ill-advised decision-making and defensive breakdowns.

"I thought I played pretty good," Johnson said. "I could have done a little bit better on ball screen defense. As far as isolation, I just have to finish those when I'm close to the bucket and I have to knock down free throws."

Johnson's seven assists were more than the combined total (four) in his first two Big Ten games.

His two turnovers - the team had only six - were his fewest in a game in which he'd played that many minutes.

He hardly took any jump shots, though, preferring to try to get to the rim. Improving his shot is something he's working on, he said.

When that happens, it'll be one of many strides Coach Matt Painter has seen his rookie make.

"He's really improved in terms of hawking the basketball in the full court," Painter said. "He's got some good quickness and he's worked having more disciplined in terms of getting into the basketball full court. I think we have to do a better job of helping him, especially in ball screen defense.

"Ronnie's done some good things for us. He's getting the ball where he wants it. Now, he's got to complete more plays and make our free throws. But he's obviously learning a lot on the fly. But he's competing. Any time you face a quality team like Ohio State and you're the point guard and your team only has six turnovers, it's pretty impressive."

Foul mood
For the second consecutive game, Purdue was forced to adjust when A.J. Hammons got in foul trouble.

Hammons was largely productive when he was in the game, scoring 13 points and grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. But he played only 22 minutes while being saddled with fouls.

He headed to the bench after his second foul with 12:10 left in the first half and Purdue trailing 19-11 and didn't re-enter. In the second half, Hammons stayed in after picking up No. 3 with 13:54 to go and responded with a dunk and an and-one and added another basket about three minutes later as Purdue pulled within 59-52.

But foul No. 4 came at the 8:44 mark, and Hammons was on and off the bench after that.

Hammons has had four fouls in each of Purdue's Big Ten games, playing only 22 minutes against Illinois and 27 against Michigan State before Tuesday night's limited minutes.

"There's no doubt his presence helps us," Painter said. "He does some good things for us even when he doesn't catch the ball offensively, he still draws attention of a big guy and can serve as a post-up screen when our guys are driving.

"But I have to do a better job helping him from a defensive standpoint, especially in terms of getting the ball stopped and then being able to get back to his man."

Ohio State used Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams some on Hammons. Ravenel was the more physical of the pair, and at one point even grabbed Hammons around the waist after he caught the ball.

Hammons made four of his nine shots and had to work for many of the baskets.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he knew Hammons would be key after watching him develop on film throughout the season. He spoke with his players about how Purdue would feed Hammons on offense.

"It probably makes them a little bit more dangerous, if you will," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of when Hammons is on the floor.

Making moves
Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas did plenty of damage, making 8-of-13 shots and scoring a game-high 22 points, but it was point guard Craft who emerged big in the second half for the Buckeyes.

After playing only five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Craft made all five of his shots, all three of his free throws and scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Craft often used change of speeds well to get into the lane, stuttering to pause a defender before zipping past, but he also showcased an improved pull-up jump shot.

"His reads were really, really good in terms of the timing of getting to where he was going," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

Matta was asked to assess Purdue.

"I think they are young. I think they're like us, only have one senior. You've got a starting freshman point guard who is a heck of a player. They're right there, like all of us. We've all got to get a lot better. But they play hard, they execute, they're smart. I like the team. They're going to continue to get better each and every game. That's what (Painter) does. He's an excellent coach."




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