Purdue tops Illinois in Big Ten opener

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 02, 2013
Purdue figured out how to slow the pace --and still score a little, too, Wednesday night. Terone Johnson finished with a career-high 25 points and D.J. Byrd scored nine of his 15 during a key 19-3 second-half run, sending the Boilermakers past No. 11 Illinois 68-61. Byrd sealed the game with a three-point play with 20.1 seconds to go. The Boilermakers (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten) have won three straight and are over .500 for the first time this season. They have won eight straight over the Fighting Illini. Illinois (13-2, 0-1) was led by Brandon Paul with 15 points and Joseph Bertrand with 14, but managed only one basket during a decisive 5 1/2-minute stretch of the second half. Illinois has lost eight straight conference road games, dating to a Jan. 4, 2012 win at Northwestern. Its losing streak against Purdue is the school's longest against a Big Ten foe since dropping nine straight to Purdue from 1996 to 2000. Still, it took everything the Boilermakers had to hang on when Illinois rallied from a 10-point deficit over the final 3 1/2 minutes to close to 63-61. But Byrd put that away by grabbing an inbounds pass, tossing in a layup, drawing a foul and hitting the free throw to make it a two-possession game. It looked like Illinois' misery might end when it opened the game by going 6 of 10 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range. That helped them hang on to a 33-31 halftime lead. The Illini extended the margin to 45-39 when Tyler Griffin hit a 3-pointer with 12:03 to play. But Byrd and 7-foot freshman A.J. Hammons rallied Purdue. After Johnson scored on a putback, Byrd knocked down a 3 to make it 45-44. Hammons scored on a short hook shot to give Purdue the lead and Byrd followed that with consecutive 3s. When Johnson drove in for a layup Purdue led 55-48 with 6:36 to play, and they led by as much as 61-51 with about 3 minutes to go. This time the Illini closed the deficit to 61-58 with the second of two 3's by Paul with 1:45 left. After Purdue's Ronnie Johnson scored, Richardson answered with his only 3 of the game to make it 63-61 with 28.4 seconds left. But Byrd closed it out with the three-point play on Purdue's next possession.
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