GAME NOTES: The Purdue Boilermakers step outside of Big Ten Conference action to host the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mackey Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Purdue is 5-1 all-time versus WVU, and the two last met at Mackey Arena in a battle of top-10 teams on Jan. 1, 2010, with the Boilermakers coasting to a 77-62 victory.
Bob Huggins's Mountaineers need a break from their first tour of the Big 12, as they lost for the third time in four games on Wednesday when they suffered a 69-67 setback at Iowa State. The recent slump has dropped the Mountaineers back to the .500 mark, and to 1-3 in away games. WVU showed some fight in its loss to the Cyclones, as it trailed by 18 with 9:04 remaining before rallying to tie it up with 11.6 seconds before the buzzer. ISU hung on by putting in a last-second layup, but the Mountaineers walked away from the loss with some momentum.
WVU is ranked eighth in the 10-team Big 12 in both scoring offense (67.9 ppg) and scoring defense (66.1 ppg), but it does average the fewest turnovers with only 12.2 per game. Huggins has not been able to locate a replacement for Kevin Jones, who led the Big East in scoring last season. The Mountaineers have a much more balanced effort this year, with sophomore guard Juwan Staten netting a team-best 10.3 ppg off the bench. Junior center Aaric Murray was recently removed from the starting lineup, but he is still second in scoring (10.0 ppg) and his 7.1 boards per game make him the unit's top rebounder. Senior guard Jabarie Hinds has had the hot hand lately in netting 17.5 ppg over his last two. Freshman guard Eron Harris is another player to watch after scoring a career-high 17 points against the Cyclones.
Matt Painter's Boilermakers had a clear leader in their last outing, as Terone Johnson finished with 18 points to lift them to a 65-56 victory over Nebraska. Although Johnson could stand to be more accurate (.386 FG, .587 FT), he has provided 13.4 ppg while leading Purdue to a 9-8 overall standing, including its 7-3 home mark. The triumph over the Cornhuskers was the second in a row for Purdue, which averages 4.4 more points per game than it allows.
The Boilermakers have been tremendous at the defensive end in recent action. They held Penn State to 42 points and a 0.259 field goal percentage before limiting Nebraska to 33.3 percent shooting. With Purdue's foes finding points hard to come by, Painter's current offensive system has plenty to get by. center A.J. Hammons is the second leading scorer and best glass cleaner with 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per outing while D.J. Byrd chimes in with 10.1 ppg. Ronnie Johnson has handled the point guard duties well and tends to be a glue guy when on the court.
This is a down year for a pair of teams that were both national title contenders the last time they met. Although WVU has a few players that seem to be on the rise, Purdue's disciplined system and the home court advantage should give the it a narrow edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Purdue 64, West Virginia 62
01/19 10:37:55 ET
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