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Johnson brothers give Purdue a closing chance

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Tipoff: Purdue at Iowa, 2 p.m., Sunday
Radio: 1380-AM
TV: BTN

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Boilers seek turnaround against struggling Iowa

Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 7:50 am

The Brothers Johnson are back to leading the Boiler way.

Will victories follow?

Perhaps. There are no basketball guarantees in Purdue circles, certainly not with a too-young team and its too-young approach.

Still, Terone and Ronnie Johnson are thriving as they haven't all season. That's why the slumping Boilers (just two wins in their last 10 games) have a chance Sunday at stumbling Iowa, which has lost three straight thanks to bad defense. It's why they might not be an easy out in this final week of a roller coaster regular season.

Terone is the 6-4 senior from Indianapolis North Central, a thousand-point career scorer who battles shooting demons that refuse to fade. In Wednesday's Michigan heart breaker, he scored as he hasn't all season, totaling a season-high 22 points that included a career-high-tying 4-for-8 three-point shooting.

Ronnie is the 6-foot sophomore, the main point guard whose top priority is to run coach Matt Painter's offensive show. He did that against the Wolverines with a season-high 21 points and seven assists.

The result -- Purdue (15-13 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten) came within one defensive stop of upsetting the nation's No. 16 team.

“It was heart breaking,” Ronnie said.

“It was humbling,” Terone added.

Terone has seen it all in his four-year career, from a pair of NCAA tourney appearances to last season's losing record aberration. He's totaled 1,273 career points, 460 rebounds and 285 assists. It does not match the numbers of, say, E'Twaun Moore, but it still makes him one of just nine players in school history with that kind of overall production.

“He's had a good career,” Painter said. “He had a great game against Michigan. He got into a good rhythm.”

That included playing solid defense on Nik Stauskas, Michigan's leading scorer. Stauskas was just 5-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-4 from three-point range.

“It was just not letting him get comfortable with the ball,” Terone said. “When he had the ball, I was into him.”

Added teammate Rapheal Davis: “Terone was pretty much pressuring him and muscling him up. Not letting him get free. He did a great job.”

Greatness has been hard to find this year for Terone, whose numbers are down from his junior season. Last year he average 13.5 points and 4.7 rebounds while totaling 95 assists against 66 turnovers. This year it's 12.1 and 3.7 with 63 assists and 44 turnovers.

“He's frustrated a little bit about this year,” Painter said. “He hasn't been as consistent as he would have liked. That's part of it. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in or it doesn't work out like you'd like it to. You keep plugging. You keep fighting.”

Painter provided fighting motivation by telling Terone, in so many ways, it was time to pick it up.

“You try to do different things to help your team, and try to do different things to help individuals,” Painter said. “Any time you're a senior, you've worked to have a great year. He hasn't had the year that he expected.”

Added Terone: “He told me the seniors from before had stepped up and showed they wanted to be out there. That was something I had to shot. (Against Michigan) I wanted to make a statement.”

He did, except the one thing that mattered most.

“I feel we should have won.”

Ronnie has averaged 15.3 points and 3.0 assists in his last four games. He has a team-best 21 games of scoring in double figures. He's averaging 10.4 points and 3.6 assists for the season.

“He's had a couple of good games,” Painter said. “He did some really good things against Michigan. He was able to penetrate and create for himself and for others. He's made some strides. He's done some good things for us.”

Still, a point guard, just like a quarterback, is ultimately measured by victories rather than statistics.

“I leaned a lot from last year,” Ronnie said. “I wanted to bring it into this year. Try to mature. I've been working on my game to get better all around and help my teammates win.”

Those teammates include freshman guard Kendall Stephens. He is, by far, the Boilers' best free throw shooter at 85.2 percent. But, with 12 seconds left in overtime against Michigan and Purdue clinging to a one-point lead, he missed the front end of a bonus. That gave the Wolverines the opening they needed in their 77-76 win.

In the aftermath Stephens spent hours working on his free throw shooting. Painter said the miss could end up defining Stephens, not for the failure as for the motivation for future success.

“In the long run, it will help him,” Painter said. “You never forget those moments. A lot of times that's what shapes a player. It's not your successes, but sometimes your failures.

“He did a good job. He got the rebound. He held it. He wanted to get fouled. In his defense, and he hasn't said much about it, he's been battling a groin injury.”