WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue had its way early and then opened the second half on a 15-4 run, choking out West Virginia 79-52 on Saturday afternoon.
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter expected a tougher game from West Virginia (8-9), which hasn’t been under .500 this late in the season since John Beilein’s 2002-03 team played with only seven scholarship players.
“It was one of those games for them, where they get on the road and it gets tough,” Painter said. “They struggled shooting the ball and it snowballed from there.”
To call this a must-win for both teams was probably accurate: Purdue (10-8) entered the day No. 115 in the RPI, with WVU at 78. Purdue wound up winning its third straight, while the Mountaineers lost their third in a row.
D.J. Byrd topped Purdue with 17 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. The Boilermakers made 8-of-11 from long distance, far better than their 29-percent average coming into the game. Purdue connected on 29-of-59 field goals overall (49 percent), part of a runaway that delighted the Mackey Arena crowd of 14,677.
Before the game, WVU coach Bob Huggins said this wasn’t the typical Boilermakers team because they “don’t shoot it as well.” Asked afterward whether Saturday’s Purdue team played better than the team he had scouted, Huggins said: “We’re so damn bad, I don’t know.”
“This is not a great perimeter shooting team we played,” Huggins said. “This is a team who the coaches told me before the game the first team to 50 will win the game, and they scored (79) on us.”
West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten certainly thought the Boilermakers played over their heads: “They hit, it seemed like, every shot they took. Even the people we thought were nonshooters made shots.”
WVU’s opening lineup featured a smallball crew Huggins had promised the past few days. It included Staten, Kevin Noreen, Jabarie Hinds, Eron Harris and, surprisingly, Matt Humphrey, making his first start since the Gonzaga season opener. The Mountaineers, plagued by 17 turnovers, shot just 17-of-58 from the floor (29 percent).
Harris, playing within an hour of his Indianapolis neighborhood, shot only 2-of-10 from the floor, but led WVU with 10 points. Staten had three turnovers against two assists and scored eight points, all in the first half when WVU fell behind 37-23.
“We turned it over 11 times in the first half, and we generally turn it over 11 times the whole game,” Huggins said. “And they were bad turnovers.”
Purdue outscored WVU 36-20 in the paint and held a 44-34 rebounding edge. Noreen had five rebounds and five points — all at the line — in 26 minutes. Huggins’ other big men, their roles diminished by the new four-guard attack, still managed to disappoint. Deniz Kilicli scored a basket and grabbed two offensive rebounds in his first 19 seconds, but was lifted after six minutes, never to return, upon failing to block out on the defensive end.
And the mercurial Aaric Murray produced this curious stat line: four points, one rebound and five fouls in nine minutes.
Purdue’s Raphael Davis had 16 points — 12 in the second half when Purdue stretched the lead to as wide as 32 points.
“We’ve had leads before and haven’t held them,” said Byrd. “Our emphasis was coming out and not letting them get their heads up.”
Ronnie Johnson had 11 points for the Boilermakers and older brother Tremone Johnson added 11.
The four-guard lineup that resurrected WVU from an 18-point hole at Iowa State couldn’t replicate that penetrate-and-pitch magic against Purdue. The Mountaineers were 3-of-18 from 3-point range.
“I thought this small lineup was going to be more effective — that we’d get in the lane and make plays for one another,” said Hinds, who had four turnovers and four points on 2-of-9 shooting. “But it didn’t really work today.”
In the game’s first three minutes, Humphrey staked WVU to a 3-0 lead with a long jumper but also committed what Huggins described as “two of the dumbest fouls that any human being can possibly make,” twice reaching in under the Mountaineers’ own basket.
“At that point in time you’ve got to take him out,” Huggins said. “Why do that? Particularly why do that when I went on a tangent the other day about guys fouling way out on the perimeter. Why would you do that? Make ‘em try to score.”
FULL HOUSE PUMPS PURDUE
The near-capacity crowd at Mackey Arena featured opposite-end student sections that were packed an hour before the game. Staten thought the Boilermakers fed off that energy and jumped on the Mountaineers.
“Us falling down early, playing in this type of environment” made a big difference, he said. “Once they hit a couple shots and get on a roll, the crowd gets into it and it’s hard to get back.”
GERUN GETS IN
Volodymyr Gerun entered with 27 seconds left in the first half and played 12 minutes, only his fourth appearance in the 11 games for which he has been eligible this season. The 6-foot-9 Ukrainian recruit missed all five shots, including four 3-pointers.
“I thought he could make a shot, because they weren’t guarding our big guys out on the perimeter,” Huggins said. “He’s made shots, but he didn’t make any today.”
The sophomore blocked two shots and grabbed two boards.
Left on campus with a lower back injury when WVU visited Iowa State, freshman guard Terry Henderson (8.3 points per game) made the trip to Purdue but didn’t play.