MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While last season’s West Virginia basketball team sustained countless blows to its manhood, none was more deflating than the 79-52 loss at Purdue.
In its aftermath, a dispirited Bob Huggins said of his team: “I just don’t know if we know how to play basketball.”
We all know how the season played out for West Virginia, but for all the precision and firepower Purdue showed that January afternoon in West Lafayette, the Boilermakers’ final resting place—a 16-18 record—wasn’t much better.
Each program carries designs for being improved this season, and yet, part of that mission for WVU involves extracting payback for the last meeting. The Mountaineers (7-4) get that chance Sunday at 1 p.m. inside the Coliseum.
“We definitely felt we could compete and make it a great game for 40 minutes (last year), but it was just kind of the opposite of that,” said West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten. “The way they beat us, it definitely means a little bit more … with the chance to play them at our place.”
Without a marquee win to its credit, WVU’s nonconference body of work has been one of merely meeting expectations, with seven victories coming at the expense of teams with an average RPI of 284. Purdue (9-3) has a similar resume: Losing to Oklahoma State, Washington State and Butler on neural courts while beating teams with a 220 composite RPI.
“They’re 9-3 but the three games they lost was playing away (from home),” said Mountaineers guard Gary Browne. “I don’t think they’re that good at playing away and we’ve got a big stage at West Virginia.”
Tipoff: 1 p.m. in Morgantown (ESPNU)
Records: The Boilermakers (9-3) are playing their first true road game after going 8-0 at home, including Tuesday’s 79-50 crushing of Maryland-Eastern Shore. West Virginia is 7-4 after rallying to beat Marshall 74-64 eight days ago.
RPIs: Purdue is No. 131 and WVU is No. 87.
Coach: Matt Painter stands 210-103 overall, including 185-98 in his ninth season at Purdue, where his teams have reached the NCAAs six times. Painter led Southern Illinois to the Dance in 2004, his only season with the Salukis.
Top players: Senior guard Terone Johnson (13.5 ppg) leads Purdue in scoring and is the only player to start all 12 games, while his younger brother Ronnie Johnson chips in 10.5 points. Guard Bryson Scott (10.1 ppg) is one of four freshmen who average at least 14 minutes per game. Another rookie is 6-10 Jay Simpson who combines with 7-footer A.J. Hammons (8.1 ppg. 6.4 rpg) to help the Boilermakers rank 20th nationally in offense rebounds. They’re also 18th in blocks at 6.3 per game.
WVU roster notes: With three players scoring in double figures—Eron Harris (18.5), Juwan Staten (16.6) and Terry Henderson (10.5)—the Mountaineers are 22nd nationally in offensive efficiency, 19th in points-per-possession and 16th in 3-point shooting percentage (41.6). … Reserve guard Gary Browne has calibrated his jumper and is shooting 53 percent from the floor after going 5-for-5 against Marshall. He’s also feeling recovered from the thigh contusion that hampered him in several early-season games. “I can move, I can penetrate, I can do a lot of stuff now. It feels great,” he said.
Before I only could shoot like step-in shots. I couldn’t penetrate or rebound the ball or put pressure on the ball.” … With Henderson healthy, freshman Nathan Adrian has come off the bench the past two games. But he played only four minutes against Marshall while slowed by another in a series of ankle sprains. “I’ve always sprained my ankles three or four times a year,” he said. “But they’re stretched out now, so when I do it, I can get back in a day.”
Line: WVU favored by 6
Prediction: West Virginia 76-73