WVU basketball: Purdue punishes Mountaineers, 79-52
WEST LAFEYETTE, Ind. -- There would be no rally Saturday.
West Virginia fell down by double digits for the third time in as many road games and Purdue used a throttling start of the second half to make sure the Mountaineers would not get back up in a 79-52 win at Mackey Arena.
WVU has lost three straight games, matching the longest streak in six seasons with Coach Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers are now 8-9 and haven't been below .500 this late in a season since the end of the 2002-03 season - and John Beilein's first team was 11-6 after 17 games.
"I didn't see it coming," Huggins said of the season. "I just didn't see it."
The Boilermakers made their first four shots after halftime and then made a 3-pointer when they missed their first shot as part of a 15-4 run. A cozy 37-23 lead at the half was up to 52-27 when Huggins called a timeout with 15:46 to go. His team started 0-for-8 in the second half and didn't make a basket for the first 4:55.
The Mountaineers, who came back from 13 points down Jan. 9 to win at Texas and 18 points down to tie the score with 11.5 seconds to go in Wednesday's loss to Iowa State, were never closer than 23 points the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 32 points.
"For the most part," point guard Juwan Staten said, "we didn't do anything right."
D.J. Byrd led all scorers with 17 points. He made 4 of 6 3-point attempts for the Boilermakers. Raphael Davis had 16 points, Anthony Johnson had 12 and Terone Johnson added 11. Purdue shot 49.2 percent from the field and 53.8 percent in the second half and made 8 of 11 3-point shots.
The Boilermakers also outrebounded WVU 44-34, including 24-13 in the second half. Purdue had 23 second-chance points and 22 points of WVU's turnovers.
"We don't take anything away," Huggins said. "This is not what I've built a career on. We let them do what they want to do."
The Mountaineers, who truthfully weren't but a few shots and possessions away from a much better record, had their worst performance since the beginning of the season. WVU opened with an 84-50 loss at Gonzaga Nov. 12 and shot 27.3 percent with 20 turnovers. WVU shot 29.3 percent Saturday with 17 turnovers.
The Mountaineers needed almost 30 minutes before two players had more than one basket. Eron Harris, who was a high school star in Indianapolis, led WVU with 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting three days after a career-high 17 points. Juwan Staten had eight points on 4-for-10 shooting. WVU missed 15 of 18 3-point attempts.
And Purdue is not Gonzaga. The Boilermakers lost to Bucknell in November and Eastern Michigan in December in non-conference play and were thumped by 23 points at Michigan State in Big Ten play this month. They nevertheless won a third straight game to improve to 10-8 and are 6-1 all-time against the Mountaineers.
"I think everything that happened to us was a result of us," Staten said. "They didn't do anything special to beat us. I think we beat ourselves."
Huggins used four guards in his starting lineup, as he hinted he might do after Wednesday's loss, but went to a big lineup after just 4:55. Matt Humphrey picked up his second foul and Terry Henderson, who might have been called upon under ordinary circumstances, was out for a second straight game with a back injury.
The score was tied 6-6 when Huggins partnered Aaric Murray with Kevin Noreen. Murray lasted three minutes before he picked up two fouls, including one on offense. Deniz Kilicli would replace Murray and Dominique Rutledge would later play with Kilicli to give Noreen a three-minute rest. In the 6:33 Huggins played a big lineup, the score went from tied to Purdue leading 25-15.
He put four guards together again with 6:32 to go. When Huggins stuck Volodymyr Gerun in with Noreen with 28.5 seconds left in the half, it was 37-23. The four-guard lineup was outscored by four points in 13:09 in the first half. The bigger lineup was outscored by 10 points in 6:51.
Huggins was a little more liberal with lineups in the second half and the results were skewed because of the score and Purdue's personnel, but WVU played with four guards the final 11 minutes after a big lineup had been outscored by seven points over about seven minutes.
Neither team did much right to start the game. WVU was 2-for-11 early and didn't make a 2-point shot until Kilicli scored on a put-back with 11:08 remaining to cut Purdue's lead to 11-9. The Boilermakers, who started 3-for-11 and 5-for-17, then hit a 16-6 run to take control. Byrd made two 3s, one of them banked in, and Purdue was 6-for-8 in the spurt.
"When you play in this kind of environment, once they hit a couple shots and get on a few rolls, the crowd gets going and it's hard to get back in," Staten said. "They made shot after shots and when you're on the road you can't give the home team any momentum."
Staten kept the Mountaineers close with three baskets in that stretch, but they managed only two other shots and committed four turnovers. The Purdue rally ended when Noreen made 1 of 2 free throws and then Staten scored again when he tipped in Gary Browne's missed layup after Brown stole a ball and raced to his basket.
That made it 27-18, but another turnover preceded Byrd's third 3 of the half and WVU would make only one more basket the 4:48. The lead was its largest at the half at 37-23 and the Mountaineers were fortunate because Staten's bad pass with seconds to go set up a Purdue fast break. Sandi Marcius missed a dunk in transition right before the buzzer.
WVU finished its non-conference schedule with a 7-6 record, the 21st straight season the non-conference mark hasbeenbetter than .500. The Mountaineer return to Big 12 play, where they are 1-3, when they play host to TCU (9-9, 0-5 Big 12) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.