Purdue's game plan Thursday was to set the tone physically and dominate the Gophers in the paint much as it did in the first meeting, a 19-point affair last month in West Lafayette, Ind.
When it came to stopping Trevion Williams, there wasn't much the Gophers could do to slow him again — until they absolutely had to down the stretch in Thursday's 71-68 win at Williams Arena.
Williams scored 15 of his 24 points in the first half for a 32-30 Purdue advantage. The 6-10, 265-pound junior was a load for Minnesota 7-footer Liam Robbins to defend alone.
But Brandon Johnson came to his rescue with 7.4 seconds left and the Gophers clinging to a 69-68 lead. Johnson sprinted off his man to double-team Williams and help force a critical traveling call.
"The guy is a great player," Johnson said. "I knew going into the timeout once they had the ball coming back in they were going to try to feed him. He was pretty much doing whatever he wanted all night. He was playing great. I told Marcus [Carr] and Gabe [Kalscheur] I was going to help Liam out."
Williams made a spin move past Robbins to give Boilermakers a 68-66 lead with 25 seconds left. But Johnson came running and leapt to contest the big man's shot the second time.
"I told them you're going to have to box out my man because I'm going in to help," Johnson said. "They're a great rebounding team, so we couldn't allow them to get second chances."
Purdue wouldn't get another opportunity that close to the basket. The Gophers were outrebounded by 17 in the first meeting, but they held their own, beaten only 38-36 on the boards Thursday.
Williams and 7-4 Zach Edey combined for 37 points and 12 rebounds for Purdue. But Johnson and Robbins were no slouch for the Gophers, combining for 26 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks against the most physical team in the Big Ten.
"Trevion Williams is really good," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. "The difference was we put a little more pressure on him at the rim and we rebounded the ball."