WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was ugly again, but Purdue got it done.
Ronnie Johnson scored 16 points to help the Boilermakers defeat Rider 81-77 on Sunday night. Among his highlights, the sophomore point guard had a critical steal and layup that put Purdue up 81-75 with 20.3 seconds to play.
Purdue coach Matt Painter still couldn't ignore the fact that Johnson made just 4 of 10 free throws.
"He has a big-time night if he knocks down his free throws," Painter said. "But he also made some big plays at key times, and that's what we need him to do."
Johnson, who made just 39 percent of his field goals last season, has made 17 of 28 this season.
"He's just picking his spots," Painter said. "I think we have more weapons this year, so he doesn't have to do quite as much."
Terone Johnson scored 14 points, Sterling Carter had 13 points and four steals and Bryson Scott added 11 points for the Boilermakers (3-0), who struggled in their opener before defeating Northern Kentucky 77-76 on Nov. 8.
Anthony Myles scored 19 points, Daniel Stewart scored 16, Jimmie Taylor had 13 and Zedric Sadler added 11 for the Broncs (0-2). Rider coach Kevin Baggett said his team played better than in its 92-78 season-opening loss to Lehigh.
"I thought these guys came ready mentally and physically prepared to play against this team," Baggett said. "We know they're a Big Ten team, we know they're pretty physical. I thought our guys came out with the right mindset, ready to compete from the start of the game."
Eventually, Purdue's depth overwhelmed the Broncs. Carter and Scott were key players on a bench that outscored Rider's 45-20.
"We're waiting our turn to go in, but at the same time, we're in tune to the game," Carter said. "We see what the group before us does and what they don't do. We just go out there and try and do our best and try to bring as much energy as possible."
Purdue's 7-foot center, A.J. Hammons, scored just one point in 12 minutes and was plagued by foul trouble. Painter said other players, such as forward Jay Simpson, made big plays inside late in the game that were keys to the win.
"It's a good thing to be able to be in foul trouble ... to be able to go to some of those other guys to give us a lift," Painter said. "Probably the difference."
Purdue shot 51 percent from the field but made just 16 of 31 free throws. Rider made 24 of 31 free throws to stay in the game.
Myles hit a 3-pointer with 38.8 seconds left to cut what had been a seven-point Purdue lead a minute earlier to 77-75.
Carter made two free throws, then Ronnie Johnson had a steal and layup to push Purdue's lead to 81-75 with 20.3 seconds to play.
Kahlil Thomas scored early in the second half to give Rider a 42-40 lead after the Broncs trailed for most of the first half. A 3-pointer by Tommy Pereira bumped the lead to three, and Sadler's 3-pointer gave Rider a 55-46 lead five minutes into the second half.
Purdue slowly rallied, then got a jolt when Basil Smotherman went baseline for a thunderous left-handed jam that energized the crowd. He was fouled, made the free throw and cut Rider's lead to 59-57. A putback by Simpson tied it at 61 with 9:21 to play, and the game was tight the rest of the way.
Hammons, who blocked seven shots in his first game, committed two quick fouls to negate his team's size advantage.
Rider led 13-8 early, but the Boilermakers rallied. Scott made a tough basket in traffic, then Rapheal Davis scored on a putback to give the Purdue a 15-13 lead. Purdue extended the lead to 19-13 while holding the Broncs scoreless for nearly four minutes.
Carter's 3-pointer pushed Purdue's lead to 32-21.
Rider rallied and cut its deficit to 38-33 with about three minutes left in the first half. Khalil Alford's 3-pointer cut it to two, and he followed it with a layup that tied the score at 40. The Broncs missed a chance to take the lead going into halftime.
"It was tied at half, and we knew we were going to have to come back and play a better second half, which we didn't, in order to have a chance to win," Baggett said.
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