WEST LAFAYETTE - Ronnie Johnson had 18 points and five assists to lead Purdue to a 77-76 victory over Northern Kentucky in the season opener for both teams on Friday night.
Jay Simpson had 14 points and six rebounds and Errick Peck had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Boilermakers (1-0), who never found a way to pull away.
Jordan Jackson had 24 points and eight rebounds and Todd Johnson had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Norse (0-1), who led for much of the game.
Peck hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining to put the Boilermakers within a point, 75-76. Jackson missed two free throws for the Norse before Ronnie Johnson scored the go-ahead free throws to capture the win.
Jackson drove to the basket and tied the game at 70 with 3:10 remaining. Jack Flournoy hit at a 3-pointer to give the Norse the lead before Ronnie Johnson scored to get back within a point, 73-72.
Tyler White extended the Norse lead again with a 3-pointer, 76-72.
But then Purdue scored five straight to take the lead.
It wasn't easy. And Purdue came close to losing just its second opener since Matt Painter has been head coach at Purdue.
The Boilermakers shot just 36.7 percent in the first half and still found a way to stay in the game. Simpson scored two free throws just before the half to tie the game at 35.
Ronnie Johnson scored on a drive to the basket to give Purdue a 37-35 lead to open the second half.
Later, Simpson grabbed a steal and Peck scored to give Purdue a 29-25 lead.
But Johnson hit a 3-pointer and Giesler hit a jumper and the Norse took the lead, 40-39.
Stephens scored on a put-back to give Purdue the lead again. The Norse missed a shot, but the Jackson grabbed a steal and dunked to make it 42-41.
Giesler hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-41 and Purdue's Travis Carroll scored next.
The Norse missed a long jumper, but Northern Kentucky grabbed the rebound. Jackson missed a lay-up, but Giesler stormed through the lane, grabbed the rebound and scored to give the Norse a 47-43 lead with 14:44 left.
Then the Boilermakers went on a 7-0 run.
Ronnie Johnson drove to the basket and Davis scored a lay-up to tie the game at 47 at the 13:10 mark in the second half.
Carter hit a 3-pointer to give the Boilermakers the lead, 50-47 lead.
But that's where the spark ended. And the Norse always found a way to keep the Boilermakers from gaining momentum, either with a 3-pointer or a lay-up.
Northern Kentucky hit 13 shots from 3-point range, but Purdue was 16 of 20 from the free throw line.