SCOUTING THE BOLIERMAKERS
Three Purdue starters average double figures, giving the Boilermakers options at almost every position and place on the floor and allowing for better point spread among players to avoid a lockdown on any one on defense. Like most Big Ten squads, Purdue's offense is inside-out and relies on forward-center combination Robbie Hummel (6-8, 208 lbs.) and JuJuan Johnson (6-10, 215 lbs.). Hummel, a junior, averages almost 15 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Hummel, a solid defender, is in the top 15 in career blocks at the school and is exceptional from the foul line. He shoots 43.6 percent overall and will step outside for a few looks per game, though he is hitting just 28.3 percent from behind the arc. Active on the boards at both ends, he can score well in the lane and on putbacks and has a very good assist-to-turnover ratio for a forward. Johnson nets 14 points and 6.5 rebounds on average. The Indianapolis native is a huge threat on the offensive glass, and he has as many offensive as defensive rebounds (39 on each) this season. He leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounding and his length can change shots from the interior. Johnson is making 54 percent from the floor and is solid at the stripe. This is a tough match-up for West Virginia, as his length and ability might force Devin Ebanks into a more traditional role inside instead of manning the point in the zone on defense. Because Purdue's guards are not significant scoring threats, that will be a decent option for WVU head coach Bob Huggins.
The Boilermakers' three-guard look is spearheaded by E'Twaun Moore (6-4, 184 lbs.), a junior out of East Chicago. He has 11 straight double-digit scoring games and averages 16.4 points and 3.6 rebounds. Moore sees the most minutes of any player at 28, meaning the coaching staff has the numbers to provide quality depth for extended periods. More of an inside threat than out, Moore likes to penetrate and pull up for shots or challenge the rim. He makes 48 percent, and is better than 80 percent from the line. Fellow guards Chris Kramer (6-3, 214 lbs.) and Keaton Grant (6-4, 201 lbs.) combine for about 13 points per game and five rebounds. Kramer mans the point slot and ranks third in the Big Ten with a 3.33 assist-to-turnover ratio (40 to 12). He won't threaten from the outside, but does hit an incredible 56 percent from the field. A mix of a passing and scoring guard, the senior leads active Purdue players with 94 career starts. Grant, also a senior, isn't a good shooter, but has almost as solid of numbers in assists and turnovers. The fifth option of the starters, Grant's job is to play smart basketball and make hustle plays.
He is usually the first one to the bench (Grant averages about 20 minutes), as head coach Matt Painter goes 10 deep. The Muncie native has a Big Ten title, a Sweet 16 appearance, and three straight NCAA Tournament berths – with mostly the players he has now. The top sub is Ryne Smith (6-3, 178 lbs.). The guard averages four points, tops among all subs meaning there isn't a lot of scoring off the pine. He isn't a shooter or a rebounder, but can distribute and play with of the two slots. D.J. Byrd (6-5, 214 lbs.) is a guard in the mold of a swingman. The freshman is a better outside shooter than in, though he struggles at the free throw line. He can rebound decently, but often gets beat on defense and thus racks up the fouls. Kelsey Barlow (6-5, 199 lbs.) is listed as a guard/forward combo. The frosh plays 16 minutes and is adept at getting off contested shots in the paint. He will challenge for rebounds, and isn't afraid to body up despite giving up weight. Patrick Bade (6-8, 235 lbs.) and Mark Wholford (6-0, 186 lbs.) round out the depth. Bade, a forward, is only an interior player. He plays well on the blocks and averages three points and three rebounds. Wholford, guard, plays 10 minutes and though he doesn't take a bunch of shots, he is extremely hot right now. The senior has made 11 of 17 shots this year, including seven of 12 from three-point range.
This is easily the best team West Virginia has faced this season. The short time between games and the travel will only allow for one practice and the shootaround prior to tip. Huggins, in fact, when home after the Marquette game and broke down film for the next day's drills. Purdue played Iowa on Tuesday, but don't have a travel day and thus might have a bit of an edge there. The Boilermakers have shooters, rebounders, can hit from outside and in, distribute well and have an overall exceptional assist-to-turnover ratio. They have not played a team with the talent and ability of the Mountaineers, and though Purdue has played just one close game, they appear to be seasoned enough to take on any team anywhere with composure. This will be a slugfest inside, with Purdue having the bulk and savvy to match WVU inside. Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks are more offensively skilled than any Boilermaker combo, but the Mountaineers lack the guard intelligence and handling of Purdue. Whichever team can get more rebounds and doesn't turn the ball over while hitting decently from the outside will have a chance. It reads like an obvious statement, and it is, but there isn't anything that would give one team a significant edge. West Virginia isn't playing its best basketball right now, and this could be the loss that has loomed for a bit. Purdue has to be favored, but this one has the potential for a terrific match – especially because it seems a game has come that has the players' full attention .
|Fri. Jan. 1
7:00 p.m. EST
WVU 11-0, 2-0 Big East
PU 12-0, 1-0 Big Ten
WVU - 2
PU - 21
WVU: G Joe Mazzulla (Shoulder) – Will Play.
West Virginia and Purdue have played four times, once each in New York, Los Angeles, Morgantown and West Lafayette. WVU is 0-4, with the biggest spread being 11 and the smallest three. Huggins played in the games in Morgantown and West Lafayette, scoring 20 total points with eight rebounds.
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WVU has won 37 of its last 39 games in December. It is 12-21 all-time against Big Ten foes, against which it has two games (Ohio State) this season.
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Da'Sean Butler passed Damien Owens for 11th place on the all-time WVU career scoring list. Butler currently has 1,623 points. He needs 32 to tie for 10th. Wellington Smith is now 4th in school history in blocked shots after moving past P.G. Greene.
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The Big East has two of the remaining six unbeaten teams in Division I college basketball. Obviously one of the six will fall from the unbeatens after the WVU-Purdue game.
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Big Ten basketball scheduling is assembled a bit differently than that of most conferences. Each team plays another one or twice, but the dates are not permanently set late in the season so the conference can best match-up teams for television. Purdue, for example, has a game with Indiana listed as being played on either March 2, 3 or 4, with Michigan State listed as Feb. 27 or 28 and with Illinois listed as Feb. 20 or 21.