WEST LAFAYETTE – The sweat still clung to the white jersey of Terone Johnson as he tried to put salve on a stinging basketball season that had just ended a few minutes earlier.
With a few of his teammates at his side, the 6-foot-2 junior guard made no bones about it: The 2012-13 basketball season – one to be forgotten, and one that ended in an 86-83 loss to Santa Clara on Monday night – already was.
This off-season is all about getting back to Purdue basketball, Johnson said. Next year starts right now.
They had hoped to extend March another game or two, these Boilermakers who went out stubbornly in the quarterfinal round of the College Basketball Invitational. Just like the season itself, they had stumbled and fallen and got bruised and bled midway through the second half, when elimination all but sat on their bench, but they stormed back to make it close.
Terone Johnson’s controlled three-pointer from the right wing hit the back iron; otherwise Monday’s game would have gone into overtime.
The night seemingly belonged to the Broncos (23-11). Santa Clara led 78-70 with a mere 1:36 remaining, only to have Purdue wear the determined mug of Boilermaker Pete himself and storm back, getting six points in 12 seconds from Ronnie Johnson and a conventional three-point play from Terone Johnson with 19.5 left to put Purdue within 83-81.
Free throws from Santa Clara kept Purdue at bay until guard Kevin Foster, who scored 34 points, missed a free throw with 4.1 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game.
Ronnie Johnson finished with 27 points, and Terone had 22.
Foster was limited to six points in the first half but exploded for 28 in the second.
He’s the best scorer we’ve faced all year, no doubt about it, Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Foster’s explanation for the two halves: I was getting good looks. I just wasn’t making them. I just kept taking the shots that presented themselves, and thankfully, they went in in the second half.
With two seniors, Painter pointed toward the youth of 2012-13 but said getting older won’t be enough.
Each guy has to make their improvement, he said. We have to be more consistent in our decision-making, and we have to have more skill. Once again, we’re 1-for-11 from three. You’ve got to be able to simply make an open shot, especially when you have a couple post players.
It’s a normal process when you have a younger team, get a lot of guys experience. You hope as you continue to grow as a group you can make more winning plays. I thought (Monday) Santa Clara made more winning plays than us.