GAME NOTES: Purdue will try to be the second visitor in a row to leave WVU Coliseum victorious, as the Boilermakers take on the West Virginia Mountaineers on Sunday afternoon.
The Boilermakers coasted past Maryland-Eastern Shore in a 79-50 decision on Tuesday in West Lafayette to earn their fourth win in the last five games. Purdue's surge to a 9-3 record came after it suffered back-to-back setbacks to Oklahoma State and Washington State in the Old Spice Classic. Coach Matt Painter's team has not played a true road game, but it has gone just 1-3 on neutral courts so far. The Boilermakers are allowing 70 points per game to rank next-to-last among Big Ten schools in scoring defense, but their average of 78.8 ppg is the fifth-best in the league. This will be Purdue's final warm- up before it begins conference play against Ohio State on New Year's Eve.
West Virginia snapped a two-game losing streak last Saturday with a 74-64 victory over in-state rival Marshall at the Charleston Civic Center. The Mountaineers are now 7-4 overall with their losses coming courtesy of Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri and in their most recent home game, Gonzaga. Coach Bob Huggins is 66-21 in non-conference, regular-season games with the program. The Mountaineers are adept offensively, which has led to an average of 82 points per game. They are allowing 68.7 ppg to the opposition. WVU will begin a three-game road trip next Saturday at William & Mary.
This will be the eighth meeting in history between Purdue and West Virginia, in a series that dates back to 1961.
Purdue has a deep rotation with 10 players clocking more than 13 minutes per game. Senior guard Terone Johnson is the offensive leader with 13.5 ppg, which could improve if he manages to raise his sub par 3-point field goal (.378) and free-throw (.566) percentages. Sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson is averaging just over 10 ppg despite going just 3-of-21 from the field to tally a total of nine points over his past three games. Starting center A.J. Hammonds has been on fire, hitting 20 of his 26 field goal attempts in his last five outings. Purdue assisted 20 of its 29 makes from the floor against UMES and knocked down 8-of-16 from 3-point range. It also limited the Hawks to only 34 percent efficiency and forced them into 15 turnovers.
The Mountaineers are led by the duo of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten. The sharpshooting Harris has knocked down 32 of his attempts from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 18.5 ppg. The 6-foot-1 Staten is contributing 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per tilt, and has also tallied 72 assists to 19 turnovers. Staten led the way for WVU in its win over the Thundering Herd with 19 points, six boards and four assists. Terry Henderson added 15 points while Harris hit only 1-of-6 shots from behind the 3-point line to net 11 points. Huggins received strong play out of reserves Brandon Watkins and Gary Browne, who combined to go 11-of-12 from the field to score 12 points apiece. The Mountaineers were able to convert 21-of-35 shots from inside the arc to counteract their 4-of-15 showing from behind the 3-point line.
The Boilermakers will need a huge effort to overcome the uninviting environment of WVU Coliseum to earn win No. 10. West Virginia has failed to collect any notable wins to this point, but that could change if Harris bounces back from his cold shooting night against the Herd. The Mountaineers' big men have done a decent job of denying their opponents easy baskets, which should help them cool off Purdue's 7-footer in Hammonds.
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