That the 79-52 score – which ties for the second-worst loss under Bob Huggins – isn’t the most glaring issue is shocking. The only question after the half was the severity, and that was answered with astounding alacrity by a Purdue team considered middle of the pack in the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers hit shots outside and in. They schooled WVU on interior passing and paint point production. They beat West Virginia to rebounds, to loose balls, to the proverbial punch and to basically giving a damn. Purdue led by 32 at 68-36 with eight minutes left – long after head coach Matt Painter had gone deep into his bench. Huggins went deep as well, in a search for answers that never came. If anything, this lambasting served up little more than another unneeded slice of humble pie to a team that already has its mouth – and hands – full with every foe.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said Huggins, whose team lost its third in a row and fourth in five games. “I thought we would be ok in the Big 12. I really did. Too many bumps. Too many bumps (in the road) to do what we need to do.”
Consider how fast the game unraveled on the Mountaineers. The teams were tied 7-7 after six minutes before Purdue methodically took control by scoring 30 of the final 46 points of the half for a 37-23 edge at the break. The Boilermakers used an immediate 11-4 run after the tie to lead 18-11 via a combination of backdoor lay-ins, D.J. Byrd’s timely three-pointers and solid finishing around the rim. Purdue punished a lackadaisical effort by West Virginia by outscoring the Mountaineers 22-6 in the paint in the first half. And it was over then. There would be no rally. Not this time, not with the way West Virginia was shooting.
The Mountaineers, who missed 15 of their first 17 shots, finished 17 of 58 overall from the field for 29.3 percent. WVU had zero two-point field goals through the first 9:52 of the game and had amassed 10 turnovers against just six made shots with little more than six minutes left in the opening period. West Virginia, somehow, actually shot worse than their 313th place NCAA rank in field goal percentage. And by the time WVU shook off the chills – it missed 27 of its first 34 shots over the first 25 minutes – Purdue had iced the game via a 52-27 lead.
“I’ve never, in my coaching career, not been able to get guys to compete,” Huggins told MSN radio. “We don’t compete. We shoot it terrible, but it shouldn’t stop us from guarding. It shouldn’t stop us from rebounding.”
But it does. Purdue (10-8)clogged passing lanes and forced shots away from the basket in creating 17 turnovers, 13 in the first half. WVU was dominated inside, and got beaten badly via back cuts, ball screens and inability to create offense on the interior – really the only place any player outside of Juwan Staten could get any offensive traction.
West Virginia had zero possessions over the final 7:24 of the first half in which it scored on its first shot, and its halftime deficit was its largest of the season.
Player of the Game
That only ballooned in the second half, as Purdue picked up right where it left off, going on a 15-4 run to take the 52-27 lead and snuff any thoughts of a Mountaineer rally. West Virginia missed its first seven shots of the second half and was held without a field goal for 8:06 spanning both periods. WVU never seriously challenged much of anything – the scoreboard and salvaging of pride included – in losing to Purdue for the sixth time in seven series games, only two decided by less than 10 points.
Only Eron Harris reached double digits for West Virginia with 10 points, on two of 10 shooting. Purdue, meanwhile, had four players in double figures, led by Byrd’s 17 and guard Rapheal Davis’ 16. Terone Johnson scored 11 points, and Anthony Johnson provided a spark off the bench with 12, most lay-ups that often also drew fouls. The four combined to hit 20 of 32 shots overall, including seven of nine from three-point range. WVU’s Staten, Jabarie Hinds, Harris and Gary Browne? A combined nine for 32, zero of eight from three.
“This is not a great perimeter shooting team we played,” Huggins said. “The point guard goes left, the other guys go right. And you watched the game. The point guard went left and the other guys didn’t do anything but go right. And we let them. All day.”
It’s hard to tell, really, whether it’s the lack of physical or mental ability that’s more alarming. WVU has obvious physical flaws: finishing around the rim, block outs, backdoor defense, shooting, shooting, shooting. But its decision making is perhaps more puzzling over increased stretches. Bad offensive spacing, timing of transition passes, shot selection, mental focus. Huggins instructs his team, and they still do whatever it is they want at times. They’ve been berated, benched, ignored. At one point, Huggins simply yelled at Dominique Rutledge, “Why won’t you do what I tell you to?”
And it is really that simple? Why? Through 16 games, West Virginia has been 13-3 or 12-4 in every other season under Huggins. Now, it’s 8-9, below .500 and trying to find answers even Huggins isn’t sure exist.
“Where do we go?” Huggins said. “I don’t know what to say. That was as listless an effort as anybody could possible get. We just do things that are unexplainable. This is a (game) that the first team to 50 will probably win. They score 80 on us. We get outscored in second-chance points. We get beat on points off turnovers; 22 points off turnovers.
“We recruited two freshmen who I thought could make shots. I’ve never had two seniors when, in their senior year, they didn’t respond. I didn’t think we’d turn it over. We should have great ball security, we should be able to get into stuff, get the ball to people. We can’t run motion because nobody will pass the ball. I honestly thought we would be better. We’ll get it turned around. I’m going to go recruit, which I obviously really need to do. I never saw it coming.”