A good crowd of 10,019 at the WVU Coliseum on Sunday afternoon witnessed a heartbreaking loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, 73-70.
WVU got on the board first when Devin Williams drew a foul in the low post on the first offensive possession of the day. Williams would put the Mountaineers on top 2-0 less than 30 seconds into play. Basil Smotherman got the Boilermakers on the board, making the score 2-2 in the early going.
After a rebound by starter Remi Dibo, Eron Harris spotted up a shot from behind the arc in transition to give WVU a 5-2 lead. Ronnie Johnson answered for Purdue, cutting the lead to one, 5-4. The Boilermakers took their first lead of the day at the 16:42 mark in the first half, 6-5. Eron Harris and Terry Henderson added back-to-back buckets to give WVU the lead back, 9-6. The Mountaineers would open up an eight-point lead, 14-6, giving the Mountaineers a 9-0 run.
The eight-point lead by WVU did not last long. Purdue answered by getting a pair of threes from Kendall Stephens and Sterling Carter, making it a 14-12 game.
The Mountaineers and Boilermakers would continue to trade punches in the first half, and Purdue took a 35-33 lead into the halftime break.
The story in the first half was the fouls by both teams. After providing a spark in the Capital Classic against Marshall, Brandon Watkins, saw action early. Watkins was quickly pulled in less than a minute of game action after picking up his second foul. Noreen would replace Watkins, but the senior picked up two quick fouls as well. A total of nine players between the two teams picked up at least two fouls in the first half on Sunday afternoon.
Purdue opened up the second half on a 5-0 run, giving the Boilermakers their largest lead of the game at seven, 40-33.
The Mountaineers went scoreless until the 16:28 mark when Harris added to his total, cutting the deficit to five, 40-35. Nathan Adrian would add a basket on the next trip down the floor, making it a 40-37 game. Just when it looked like WVU would take the lead back, Purdue answered. A.J. Hammons added another basket to give the Boilermakers a five-point edge, 42-37.
Eron Harris responded to the basket by Hammons by adding another two. Terone Johnson continued his solid performance for Purdue, and the Mountaineers once again found themselves down by five, 44-39. WVU would continue to chip away at the lead, getting a basket from Eron Harris, making it 44-41.
Sterling Carter silenced the crowd on hand at the Coliseum just seconds later, adding three points to his total and extending the Purdue lead to six, 47-41. A relatively quiet day for Juwan Staten ended on the next possession for WVU. Staten drove to ball down the lane adding a basket while getting a foul. The three-point play by Staten pulled the Mountaineers back within three, 47-44. Kendall Stephens added his second three of the day on the next Purdue possession, opening the lead back up to six, 50-44. Bryson Scott would add another basket for the Boilermakers, making it an eight-point game, 52-44.
The deficit faced by the Mountaineers did not take the energy out of Coach Huggins team. Harris and Williams helped put together a 4-0 run in response to a 5-0 run by Purdue, getting WVU back within four, 52-48. Ronnie Johnson had a chance to open the lead up for Purdue at the free throw line, but would go just one of four on his next two trips to the line, leaving the door open for West Virginia.
Devin Williams added a pair of free throws to make it a 53-50 game late in the second half. Terone Johnson would get another bucket for the Boilermakers, making it a 55-50 game. Harris and Williams would cut the Purdue lead to one, 55-54. Terone Johnson would respond for the Boilermakers, pushing the lead back to four, 58-54.
Devin Williams added a pair of free throws to get WVU back within two, 58-56. Terone Johnson would score again on the next Purdue possession, making it a 60-56 game. Nathan Adrian would make it a 60-58 game on the next possession for the Mountaineers.
Kendall Stephens added a three-point play to open the lead back up to five for Purdue, 63-58. Eron Harris cut the lead back to three on the next possession for WVU, making it a 63-60 game. The Boilermakers would answer with a 4-0 run to put the Mountaineers down seven.
The spurt by Purdue seemed to zap what was left in the tank for WVU. The Mountaineers would lose a heartbreaker at home against the Boilermakers, 73-70.
At the end of the day, the Mountaineers just could not find consistency on offense. Coach Huggins says this team has to get better on offense.
"Our offensive execution isn't where it needs to be," said Huggins.
Part of that execution is not settling for as many jump shots. The Mountaineers finished just 3 of 18 from behind the arc.
"We're like a dog with an electric fence," said Huggins. "Once we get to the three point line we act like we can't go past it."
The losses do not get any easier for WVU. With non-conference play coming to a close next week in Charleston on Dec. 29 against William and Mary, the Mountaineers lack a resume building win. Senior guard Juwan Staten says losing is starting to take a toll.
"It feels like it's becoming a trend," said Staten. "It doesn't get any easier."
If there are any positives to take away from today's game against Purdue, it is that Devin Williams continues to grow. The freshman forward finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds for WVU. Coach Huggins credited his effort after the game.
"He's a great kid who works hard," said Huggins. "He wants to get better, and he really cares."
Despite the tough loss at home, Huggins still feels his team is close to being good.
"We are close to being a good team," said Huggins.
The Mountaineers will now take a break before wrapping up non-conference play on Dec. 29 against William and Mary in Charleston.