As the Big Ten season approaches, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson is heating up.
Johnson and the 14th-ranked Boilermakers close out the early portion of their non-conference slate when they host IPFW on Tuesday night.
Despite concerns over the loss of Robbie Hummel to injury, Purdue (10-1) has been impressive in non-conference play. The Boilermakers have won five in a row since a 65-54 loss to Richmond on Nov. 27, not allowing an opponent to reach 60 points during that stretch.
Purdue defeated Indiana State 65-52 at Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday, holding the Sycamores to 34.5 percent shooting while forcing 18 turnovers.
Johnson scored a career-high 31 points, with 25 coming in the first half. He shot 10 of 19 and had three blocked shots.
The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks while shooting 49.7 percent. He scored 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting his previous game against North Florida.
“He can score around the basket, he’s got tremendous touch,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “He really has no weaknesses other than him being thin. Everybody thinks you can beat him up, but he’s a tough kid. He’s just really, really good.”
While Johnson had another strong performance, the rest of Purdue shot 23.7 percent. The Boilermakers have shot below 40.0 percent in four of their last six games.
Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, who had 16 second-half points Saturday and is averaging a team-high 20.2, account for 53 percent of Purdue’s points. In the last three games, though, that has increased to 59 percent as they’ve had to make up for the loss of third-leading scorer John Hart (foot).
Hart was averaging 8.4 points and no other player is scoring more than 5.6 per game.
Despite some concerns about the offense, the Boilermakers continue to play well defensively. Opponents are shooting 38.3 percent the last five games while averaging 17.2 turnovers.
Purdue begins the Big Ten season next Tuesday at Michigan.
First, though, the Boilermakers will try to win their 12th in a row against an in-state rival when they meet IPFW, which is looking to bounce back after it had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 63-47 loss to Valparaiso on Saturday.
The Mastodons (7-3) averaged 81.8 points and shot 40.5 percent from 3-point range during the win streak, but they shot 26.0 percent overall against the Crusaders and were 3 of 14 from beyond the arc in scoring their fewest points of the season.
IPFW has five players averaging in double figures, including Ben Botts, who is scoring a team-best 13.3 points per game. Botts was held to one point in 22 minutes Saturday, shooting 0 for 4.
The Mastodons are 0-11 against teams in the Top 25 since joining Division I in the 2001-02 season.
Purdue has won all three meetings against IPFW, including 70-55 in 2008 behind Johnson’s 21 points and Moore’s 19.