Updated: Saturday, 29 Dec 2012, 4:48 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 29 Dec 2012, 4:48 PM EST
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Terone Johnson scored 16 points and A.J. Hammons overcame a sore right knee to finish with 14 points Saturday, leading Purdue past pesky William & Mary 73-66.
The Boilermakers (6-6) won their second straight to reach the .500 mark before starting Big Ten play next week against No. 12 Illinois, and barely avoided a fourth loss this season to a non-BCS conference school after an 11-day Christmas break.
William & Mary (7-4) was led by Marcus Thornton with 21 points and Tim Rusthoven with 16 points and six rebounds. The Tribe dropped to 1-5 all-time against Big Ten schools on the 20th anniversary of its only win over a school in that league.
But it proved to be tougher than just about anyone outside the locker rooms expected.
The Boilermakers again struggled to take advantage of their opportunities, repeatedly blowing chances to put the game away until the closing stretch. Jacob Lawson's layup with 7:46 to play broke a 58-58 tie and started the decisive 10-2 run that finally gave Purdue control.
The Tribe answered with four straight to make it 66-64, but Purdue came back with six more points and eventually closed it out at the free-throw line.
It was that kind of game.
When the Boilermakers broke to a 10-3 lead, William & Mary answered with five straight points.
When Raphael Davis scored five straight to give Purdue a 22-16 lead, the Tribe came back with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 24-23.
When the Boilermakers followed that spurt with a 6-0 run, William & Mary stopped the momentum with a 3-pointer from Matt Rum, then used a 7-0 spurt to take a 35-34 lead with 2:17 to go in the half. And when Rusthoven came up with a late steal and flipped the ball down the court to Brandon Britt for another 3 with 18.4 seconds to go, William & Mary had a 40-39 halftime lead.
After losing to Bucknell, Xavier and Eastern Michigan earlier this season, worried Purdue fans thought this might be the next addition to the list of losses to non-BCS conference schools.
The Boilermakers opened the second half with a different game plan — going to the basket.
They started with three straight layups and a 10-foot runner, another layup and three free throws to take a 52-45 lead 13:53 left.
William & Mary again answered with five quick points and eventually took a 54-52 lead when Thornton stole the ball and drove in for a layup.
Purdue answered with six straight points, then gave up four straight to make it 58-58 with 8:31 to play.
That's when Lawson broke the tie and helped Purdue pull away.