WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- JaJuan Johnson took a critical step in becoming a complete player Wednesday night.
Johnson, who finished with 25 points, was wide open after an inbounds pass from Ryne Smith and a screen from E'Twaun Moore. The 6-foot-10 center calmly drained the 18-footer from the right wing.
"As a senior, you want that opportunity," he said.
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Johnson has scored 80 points in his past three games, and now he's added clutch shooting to his array of tools.
"JaJuan is very confident," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I would say that's his last step in his development. He's skilled, he's athletic, he can run, he's coachable, he's fun to be around, he's unselfish, but now, he's confident."
Penn State has beaten ranked teams Michigan State and Illinois at home and lost 69-66 at No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday. They were one defensive stop from another big win.
"We just didn't guard them," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "We just didn't guard them tight enough."
Johnson's shot could be critical in the long run for the Boilermakers, who were coming off close losses at Minnesota and West Virginia. The Boilermakers nearly took a three-game losing streak into Saturday's showdown with Michigan State.
"We were just happy we survived, to be honest with you," Painter said. "We weren't jumping around celebrating or anything. We knew we were very fortunate to get this win."
Moore added 16 points for Purdue (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten). He shot 7 for 15 from the field after shooting a combined 8 for 32 in the previous two games.
Jeff Brooks had 19 points and eight rebounds and David Jackson added 13 points for Penn State (10-8, 3-4). Talor Battle, the Big Ten's leading scorer, finished with 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting. He shot 6 for 22 in Purdue's 83-68 win over the Nittany Lions on Jan. 5.
Purdue led 60-59 when Johnson was fouled in close with 46 seconds left. He made the first free throw, but missed the second, and Penn State rebounded.
Jackson drained a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to give Penn State a 62-61 lead.
"We were in position to make a defensive play to stop them, and we didn't," Painter said. "We just had a total breakdown in responsibilities with that ball screen right there, and D.J. Jackson made us pay."
Moore drove and lost control of the ball, but Purdue retained possession with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Johnson's jumper gave Purdue a 63-62 lead. Penn State had to go the length of the court, and Purdue's Lewis Jackson intercepted the inbounds pass near midcourt and dribbled out the clock.
"We had a play called and we just didn't throw the ball high enough," DeChellis said. "We threw the ball right to the defense."
Down to the last second, Painter was concerned about Battle.
"He's one of those guys that, at any time, you think he can just uncork one from 25 feet and beat you," Painter said. "That's what we were worried about at the end."
A 3-pointer by John Hart rattled in and gave Purdue a 15-8 lead. It was Hart's first basket since Dec. 4. He missed nine games after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, then played four minutes on Sunday against West Virginia.
Moore made a basket, exciting a crowd that was well aware of his struggles. He followed that with consecutive 3-pointers, and his eight points in 1:30 gave Purdue a 23-10 lead.
Penn State rallied late in the first half, and a tip-in by Brooks at the buzzer cut Purdue's lead to 34-28. The Nittany Lions shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, but Purdue made 6 of 11 3-pointers and committed just one turnover.
Penn State finally took the lead early in the second half on a long jumper by Tim Frazier that bounced up, then in. The Nittany Lions led 37-34 before Johnson scored consecutive baskets to give Purdue the lead again.
Kelsey Barlow knocked the ball off Battle and out of bounds, then took advantage of the turnover with a two-handed dunk that gave Purdue a 44-41 lead.
Moore stole the ball from Battle to ignite a fast break, and this time, Barlow settled for a one-handed jam to push the lead to 52-47.
Penn State rallied, and a 3-pointer by David Jackson gave Penn State a 57-56 lead with 3:24 to play.
A jumper by D.J. Byrd, then a drive and dunk by Moore gave Purdue a 60-57 lead to set up the final 2 minutes.
It was another bitter loss for DeChellis after the Nittany Lions fell short in the final seconds against Ohio State. Jared Sullinger hit a three-point play with 13.2 seconds left to provide the difference in that game.
"You try to not let it come down to the last play of the game, but sometimes it does," he said. "It came down to the last play in Columbus on Saturday for us and it did tonight."