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NKU narrowly loses to Purdue, 77-76
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WKRC) -- Ronnie Johnson made a pair of free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining in the game to give Purdue the lead, and the Boilermakers survived two last-second attempts by Northern Kentucky to hold on for a 77-76 victory on Friday night.
After Johnson hit the two free throws to give Purdue a 77-76 lead, Northern Kentucky's Tyler White drove the left side of the lane and attempted a layup over three Purdue defenders that rimmed out. The Norse's Jake Giesler grabbed the offensive rebound, but his shot at the buzzer missed and Purdue escaped with the season-opening victory before a crowd of 13,033 in Mackey Arena.
"Tyler made a nice read on that final play, and the ball just would not fall in the basket," Northern Kentucky head coach Dave Bezold said. "Jake was in the right place and had the rebound, but that's a tough attempt. I was really proud of the way our guys battled the entire game. We just came up a possession short."
Northern Kentucky (0-1) owned a 76-72 lead with 58 seconds remaining after White buried a 3-pointer. Following a timeout, Purdue countered with a trey by Errick Peck to trim the Norse advantage to 76-75.
Jordan Jackson, who enjoyed a tremendous debut for Northern Kentucky with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists, drew a foul with 19.7 seconds left on the clock, but the junior guard missed both free throws. Johnson was fouled six seconds later and converted a pair of free throws to give Purdue the winning points.
"Jordan had an outstanding game, and we would not have been in position to win if he had not played so well," Bezold said. "That's one of the best debuts I've ever seen a player have for Northern Kentucky. Jordan was tremendous."
Northern Kentucky started quickly and twice led by as many as nine points, but Purdue rallied late to forge a 35-all tie at intermission. Sophomore guard Todd Johnson buried a trio of 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half to spark the Norse, while Jackson netted 13 points before the break.
Johnson recorded his first career double-double for the Norse with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"Todd had a lot of fans here at the game, and he put on a great show," Bezold said. "He cramped up a little near the end of the game, and that hurt because he was playing so well."
Northern Kentucky finished 13-for-26 from 3-point range, including four treys apiece from Johnson and Jack Flournoy.
"I thought they were tough and they competed. I was impressed," Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of Northern Kentucky. "They deserved to win this game. They are a really good team."
Northern Kentucky entered Friday's game having to replace 73 percent of its scoring total from last season. The Norse also lost 70 percent of their rebounding from last season's 11-16 squad.
"We have a number of guys who are still learning the system, but they competed extremely hard in a very tough environment," Bezold said. "Purdue has a good team with some excellent athletes. It was a fun game to watch for the fans. I wish we could have pulled it out at the end."
Northern Kentucky is now 33-10 all-time in season openers.
Ronnie Johnson led Purdue with 18 points, while Jay Simpson added 14. Peck scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Terone Johnson scored 10 points.
Purdue shot 46.6 percent from the field, while Northern Kentucky converted 42.9 percent of its shots. Both teams pulled down 35 rebounds.
Northern Kentucky meets No. 1-ranked Kentucky at 4 p.m. Sunday in Rupp Arena. It will mark the first time as a Division I member that the Norse have played the nation's top-ranked team.
While competing in Division II, Northern Kentucky played the top-ranked team 17 times and was 3-14 in those games. The Norse defeated then-No. 1 Southern Indiana twice and top-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan once to account for those three wins.
The Norse begin their home season Nov. 16 against San Diego in The Bank of Kentucky Center at 7 p.m.
Photo and information courtesy NKU Athletics