West Virginia knocks off No. 8 Purdue
Boilermakers lose second consecutive game
The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Bob Huggins threw everything he could defensively at No. 8 Purdue until the Mountaineers finally found a rhythm on offense.
Kevin Jones scored nine of his 17 points during a late 18-6 run and West Virginia held off the Boilermakers 68-64 on Sunday.
West Virginia (12-4) has won a season-high four consecutive games, following its most prolific offensive showing of the season in a 93-63 win over Providence on Thursday night with a scrappy defense against the Boilermakers.
"This was as much a team effort as any game we've played this year," Huggins said.
John Flowers added 15 points, Truck Bryant scored 12 and Joe Mazzulla had 10 for West Virginia, which lost in a blowout to the Boilermakers last season.
West Virginia shot 14 of 27 (52 percent) from the floor after halftime and was able to overcome another strong effort from JaJuan Johnson, who scored 26 points and kept the Boilermakers in the game until the final seconds.
"He's probably as hard to guard as any big guy we've played in the 3 1/2 years I've been here," Huggins said.
The Boilermakers (15-3) now have their first losing streak of the season after also falling 70-67 at Minnesota on Thursday night. Purdue lost despite shooting 16 of 30 (53 percent) from the floor in the second half and 48 percent overall.
"I thought we rushed things, took a couple of ill-advised shots and had a couple of turnovers," said Purdue coach Matt Painter.
Purdue's undoing came on the glass. The Boilermakers, who return to Big Ten play with home games against Penn State on Wednesday and Michigan State on Saturday, were outrebounded 37-29, their lowest total of the season.
"We've got to correct that and get ready for Penn State," Johnson said.
Neither team led by more than five points until E'Twaun Moore hit 3-pointers 29 seconds apart to put Purdue ahead 44-38 with 14:16 remaining.
Frustrated by clogged scoring lanes that shut down chances for close baskets, West Virginia then went to its outside game.
Jones scored nine points over a four-minute span, Casey Mitchell made a three-point play and Deniz Kilicli's baby hook from the baseline gave the Mountaineers their largest lead, 60-54, with 3:39 left.
"I just put it on myself to become more aggressive because I think our team needed a spark," Jones said. "I thought that if I become more aggressive, that our team would become more aggressive."
Johnson's jumper with 38 seconds left brought Purdue within 64-62.
West Virginia might have had a bigger cushion if not for Mazzulla, who missed four consecutive free throws down the stretch before finally making one with 35 seconds remaining. The Mountaineers preserved the win with three more from the line after that.
"We've never won pretty in big games," Mazzulla said. "We've always had to grind it out. We know that our offense isn't always going to be there, but our defense and rebounding will. And we were able to come back like we did at the end of the game."
Johnson, who burned the Mountaineers for 25 points and 10 rebounds a year ago, looked every bit as effective this time, even though West Virginia constantly had a big body on him.
Danny Jennings started, but when West Virginia needed some offense he was quickly replaced by Kilicli, who outweighs Johnson by 50 pounds. Jones and forward Cam Thoroughman helped double team Johnson, but that only gave others open looks.
"They're kind of similar to a Big Ten team," Johnson said. "It kind of reminded me of Minnesota. It wasn't anything I haven't seen before."
The physical game left Johnson holding the back of his head after he was hit on the offensive end of the court in the first half, while at the other end seconds later, Lewis Jackson limped off the court when he landed awkwardly after making a layup. He returned a short time later. Terone Johnson also went to the bench temporarily, holding his right arm.
West Virginia looked tentative at the start despite the support of its first sellout crowd of the season. The Mountaineers turned the ball over on their first four trips down the court. Flowers, who had a career-high 24 points in the blowout win over Providence, didn't have a shot attempt in the first half.
The lead changed seven times over the final eight minutes of the half, with Bryant's jumper giving West Virginia a 29-28 halftime lead.
Moore added 14 points and Jackson finished with 10 for Purdue.
Ryne Smith was held scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting after scoring just three points at Minnesota. He had averaged 19 points in two games the previous week.