INDIANAPOLIS — There was no magic to how Butler beat Purdue 76-70 in the finale of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Boilermakers guard Terone Johnson said.
It was simple. The Bulldogs (8-2) were tougher than a team that builds its identity on toughness.
“I don’t think it was really about us having good games or their players having good games,” said Johnson, who had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, along with four turnovers. “At the end, they toughed it out and had more composure. They had the long rebounds there at the end and had more possessions. We turned the ball over.”
The Boilermakers (8-3) had 18 turnovers, which Butler turned into 25 points. Ten of the miscues came in the second half, after Purdue had turned a 36-33 halftime deficit into a 49-48 lead.
Sophomore center A.J. Hammons hit back-to-back shots out of the post to give Purdue that lead with 12:27 to go. But then the Boilermakers broke down.
Butler went on a 21-4 run over the next 10 minutes, leading up to Hammons’ fifth foul and a technical called on Purdue coach Matt Painter. Hammons finished with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and blocked three shots, but he played just 17 minutes and had three turnovers.
“Down the stretch, we didn’t do well with composure,” Johnson said. “We turned the ball over, we made some bad fouls there at the end. That’s just something that we got to work on.”
The Boilermakers got 34 points off its bench, including 13 from Northrop graduate and Purdue freshman Bryson Scott, but the scoring was as uneven as it has been all season. Purdue shot 44.4 percent from the field, but only four players scored more than five points.
The Boilermakers scored just 0.97 point per possession and turned the ball over on a quarter of their offensive possessions.
“We just had way too many turnovers – too many guys forcing things,” Painter said. “I thought Butler was tougher than us today. I don’t want to say that they’re a tougher basketball team, but they sure played tougher today.”
Butler had 25 points from Kelleen Dunham, who shot 50 percent, and 18 points and nine rebounds from Khyle Marshall. Those two were focuses of Painter’s game plan, and the Boilermakers weren’t able to limit them in any consistent fashion.
“That’s something that we came into the game with,” Johnson said. “We’re obviously disappointed.”
Purdue made a comeback after that 2:25 mark, and thanks to relentless play from Scott and freshman forward Basil Smotherman managed to turn a 16-point deficit into a 74-70 game with 19.6 seconds left.
But Butler regained control to get the win.
“From a basketball standpoint, they’re as good as anybody we’ve played in terms of being efficient and playing the game the right way,” Painter said. “We had too many guys with a deer in the headlights look coming in here. We play a lot of young guys, but after you’ve played 10 games, you know, what’s the big deal?”