WEST LAFAYETTE – How good was Purdue guard Terone Johnson during his first outing on Keady Court this basketball season? Good enough that his coach wanted to throw a party.
After watching the junior score a team-high 24 points (in just 26 minutes) in an exhibition victory over Montevallo on Tuesday at Mackey Arena, Boilermaker coach Matt Painter was ecstatic about Johnson's offensive prowess. No, not the fact that he connected on half of his shots (7 of 14), but the fact that the North Central High School graduate sank a startling seven of his nine free-throw attempts.
“Going 7 of 9 from the free-throw line, we should've stopped and had a party,” Painter said. “Or made it a national holiday.”
Purdue will host Newberry in its final exhibition game at 8 p.m. today (Big Ten Digital Network).
Johnson has been a very valuable contributor for Painter during his two seasons, including being the leading scorer (15.5 points per game) during last season's NCAA Tournament. However, the numbers don't lie when it comes to his free-throw shooting.
As a freshman, Johnson hit just 55.6 percent (25 of 45) from the line, and despite extra work, those numbers got worse a year ago (43.5 percent on 47 of 108 attempts).
“I'm joking,” Painter said of the planned festivities. “Terone's worked on that. He's put in a lot of time.”
The 6-foot-2 combo guard has “put in a lot of time” working on a lot of areas of his play, obviously. He looked strong, confident and assertive at both ends of the court Tuesday.
“He was more aggressive,” Painter said. “He's more comfortable out there.”
That comfort level comes from Painter putting pressure on Johnson during practices, as well as tweaking his mechanics.
“We do pressure free-throw drills in practice,” Painter said. “He steps up there and makes them. His form is better, and I think that confidence has helped him from the free-throw line and shooting perimeter shots.”
In Tuesday's win, the Boilermakers led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but the visitors rallied to tie the game at 44 minutes into the second half. At that point, Johnson stepped to the line and drained a pair of free throws, then added a jumper to give his team a 48-44 advantage.
Free-throw shooting aside, Painter has complete confidence in Johnson's ability to lift this team when needed and he always has.
“Terone just made some good basketball plays,” Painter said of Tuesday's game. “When we signed him, I said this – and I try not to say things of this nature – but I really thought he'd be an all-conference player. I still believe that.”