West Virginia At Purdue: Non-conference Finale Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Purdue and West Virginia meet for game No. 3 of their four-game contract.

Purdue steps out of conference one more time during the 2012-13 basketball season tomorrow when West Virginia comes to Mackey Arena. This is a continuation of the recent four-game series that started on New Year's Day 2010 when a pair of top 10 teams met at Mackey. The Boilers dominated that game to beat the previously unbeaten Mountaineers 77-62. West Virginia would make the Final Four that season, while Purdue would have if not for that Fateful Day in Minneapolis.

The stakes aren't quite as high this time. They aren't even as high as the 2011 meeting won by West Virginia 68-64 in Morgantown. Both teams are hovering around .500 and struggling to gain any momentum. The winner likely needs this game to reach the postseason at all.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Location: Morgantown, WV

2011-12 record: 19-14, 9-9 Big East

2012-13 Record: 8-8, 1-3 Big 12

RPI: 78

2012 Postseason: Lost to Gonzaga 77-54 in NCAA Tournament First Round

Blog Representation: The Smoking Musket

Series With Purdue: Purdue Leads 5-1

Last Purdue win: 77-62 on 1/1/2010 at Purdue

Last West Virginia win: 68-64 on 1/16/2011 at West Virginia

Time: 2pm

TV: CBS

Odds: No line yet

The Mountaineers have had a rough season to this point, but any win over a top six conference is a good one. A victory by Purdue would give the Boilers a win over a Big 12 and an ACC team, with misses against the Pac-12 and Big East. Purdue does have a common opponent, as West Virginia lost 81-66 at home against Michigan on December 15. Some of the other losses have not been pretty. Losing to Duquesne and Davidson are not great.

West Virginia has two losses to Oklahoma, as they lost to the Sooners in an early season tournament scheduled before their move to the Big 12 and in their January 5 Big 12 opener. Kansas State, Iowa State, and Gonzaga have also beaten them. In terms of good wins the best is probably a 57-53 win at Texas in overtime, but Texas lost to Chaminade in Maui, so... yeah. Four of West Virginia's losses have been by four points or less. Like Purdue, they have been right there, but can't quite pull it off at times.

Indianapolis native Eron Harris (and a teammate last year of Basil Smotherman) will be making a homecoming in this game. He is a regular bench contributor at 6.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. The Mountaineers like to get out and run a bit. Their scoring is very balanced with Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray as the only two players in double figures at just over 10 points per game. Staten also averages 3.2 assists per game as a sophomore point guard. The matchup between him and Ronnie Johnson should be good. Both are up and coming defenders.

Murray is a 6'10" junior center that might give A.J. Hammons fits. West Virginia is a very big tem with 6'9" Turkish forward Deniz Kilicli and the 6'10" Kevin Noreen both playing big minutes. Because of their sheer size I expect Sandi Marcius to play quite a bit, while Jacob Lawson needs to also be effective.

All the size allows West Virginia to be a good rebounding team (45th nationally). It also helps they are a horrid shooting team. Purdue has been bad, but we rank 233rd nationally at 41.9% from the field. West Virginia is 313th at a dismal 39.7%. Harris is one of their better shooters at 41% from long range.

Speaking of long range, West Virginia will take A LOT of threes, so Purdue's struggles with long rebounds and West Virginia's rebounding prowess are concerns. Even Murray at 6'10" has 20 three-point attempts on the year. Terry Henderson, Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Matt Humphrey all chuck it from deep.

That makes perimeter defense paramount. They shoot it from deep at least 17 times per game and don't be surprised if they go over 20. They don't shoot it particularly well, however, at 29.1% as a team.

This is a deep team. There is a decent 9-10 man rotation much like we can do. Because of that we can expect to see a variety of looks offensively. The only player we have any familiarity with from two years ago is Kilicli, who physically shoved Purdue around way too easily for eight points and six rebounds off the bench. He also had a critical offensive rebound with 1:30 left and Purdue down 62-60 in that loss.

This is a hard game to call because the teams are very similar. They have slightly underperformed and aren't quite what people normally expect from them, but there is some good, young talent on the floor. Scoring is very similar (less than a two-point different), both rebound well, but both shoot poorly. Neither team has a true offensive identity.

The closes thing that either team has to a go-to guy is Terone Johnson and Hammons. TJ is the highest scorer out of the roughly 20 guys that will play in this game, while Hammons has an effective low-post game to go against Murray.

Celebrate win No. 10 if:

  • Hammons stays out of foul trouble.
  • Purdue limits offensive rebounds given up.
  • West Virginia continues to shoot poorly.
  • TJ continues his run of good play.
  • D.J. Byrd hits some threes to open it up for Hammons.

Back to .500 if:

  • Murray out-muscles Hammons.
  • Hammons gets in foul trouble.
  • Purdue cannot clear the defensive glass.
  • One of West Virginia's many shooters gets hot.
  • Purdue loses the turnover battle.

Prediction: Purdue 65, West Virginia 62

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