Jan. 22, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Behind relentless defensive pressure, and 19 points and five blocks from JaJuan Johnson, No. 18 Purdue banged its way to a 70-62 victory over No. 21 Minnesota on Thursday night.

E'Twaun Moore added 16 points for Purdue (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten), which won its fourth straight conference game after an 0-2 start. The Boilermakers entered charged-up Williams Arena with the second-ranked field goal percentage defense in the country and made life miserable all evening for the Gophers (16-3, 4-3).

Al Nolen had 17 points on 3-for-14 shooting and four steals for Minnesota, which shot a season-low 27.6 percent, including 3 for 19 from 3-point range, to lose its second in a row.

The Gophers trailed nearly the entire game and were run out of The Barn by a 17-6 run midway through the second half. Lewis Jackson scored seven points in the spurt and Johnson punctuated it with an emphatic dunk to get the Boilermakers rolling toward another win.

Purdue looked shaky early in the conference season because of injuries to floor leader Robbie Hummel and defensive specialist Chris Kramer. Both are healing up now, and Purdue is looking more like the team that was picked as a favorite to win the Big Ten.

Still slowed by a back injury, Hummel came off the bench and scored five points. But with Moore, Johnson and Jackson going a combined 16-for-27 against a humbled Minnesota defense, Purdue cruised.

The Gophers take pride in the defensive end as well. Tubby Smith's crew entered the night second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense at 39 percent, and the Gophers had 12 steals and 10 blocks in this one.

But Purdue shot better than 50 percent for most of the game to overcome 17 turnovers.

The Gophers have been hampered by slow starts for much of the season, and Thursday night was no different. They missed 13 of their first 18 shots and committed 11 turnovers in the first 15 minutes to fall behind 27-15.

Moore made 5 of 7 shots in the period, but the Boilermakers missed five free throws and turned the ball over nine times to allow Minnesota to hang around at 36-29.

As the game wore on, the Gophers grew frustrated. Leading-scorer Lawrence Westbrook missed six of his eight field goals, and two of those were on forced drives to the basket in transition midway through the second half that were swatted away by Purdue's superb help defenders.

Following those blocks, Jackson scored on a drive to the hoop and Keaton Grant hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Boilermakers a 47-35 lead with 11:36 to go.

For a team that has designs on an NCAA tournament bid, this was a tough defeat. It was Minnesota's second home loss of the season, the other coming to Michigan State.