With one of their worst shooting performances of the season, the West Virginia Mountaineers could not pull off a much-needed victory over the Purdue Boilermakers Sunday in Morgantown, dropping their fifth loss of the season 73-70.
The Mountaineers looked hot offensively, opening up Sunday's contest, thanks to the efforts of Eron Harris. The sophomore guard, who has been the catalyst for much of West Virginia's non-conference success, put the Mountaineers on the board early with a corner three, giving West Virginia the early 5-2 lead.
Harris would back up the three with a driving layup on the ensuing possession, breaking the ankles of Purdue's Terone Johnson before laying it in for two.
The five points from Harris were important for West Virginia, as the Mountaineers struggled early, shooting 37.5 percent from the field in the first five minutes of the contest. Still, the Boilermakers struggled equally from the field to open up the game, allowing West Virginia to take a 9-6 lead into the first media timeout.
West Virginia continued to live beyond the three-point arc offensively following the timeout, this time with Terry Henderson pulling the trigger. Henderson received the dish from a driving Juwan Staten, pulling the defense off the young guard and giving him the wide-open look. The basket gave the Mountaineers a 14-6 advantage with seven minutes down in the first half.
It would seemingly take Purdue until the 13-minute mark to find their rhythm offensively, thanks to the efforts of Kendall Stephens and Sterling Carter. A pair of threes from the duo on consecutive possessions, plus a big block by Stephens against West Virginia's Gary Browne, helped the Boilermakers cut into West Virginia's lead, tying the game at 14 after an 8-0 run.
Both teams would swap the lead for the next few minutes, with West Virginia pushing back to a three-point advantage midway through the half. A long jumper by Staten and midrange basket from Devin Williams pushed the Mountaineers up 20-17 with nine minutes remaining in the half.
But Purdue would quickly answer. A free throw and layup from Johnson tied the ballgame again at 20, keeping the contest close between the two teams with eight minutes to play.
The Boilermakers worked their way into the lead entering the final media timeout of the half, thanks to solid shooting from the free throw line. Purdue pushed its way to a five-point lead thanks to a 6-0 run, with four of those points coming from the charity stripe.
A layup by Harris broke the Boilermakers run, but the Mountaineers continued to trail 30-27 with 3:27 left in the half.
The Mountaineers would bounce back to briefly take the lead thanks to the post play of Williams. The freshman big man for West Virginia helped to spark the Mountaineer's own 6-0 run with a second-chance layup and dunk on consecutive possessions, giving West Virginia a 31-30 advantage.
Both teams would continue to swap leads for the remaining two minutes of the half, with the Boilermakers taking a 35-33 advantage into the locker room at the half.
Purdue picked up where they left off coming out of the locker room at halftime, quickly building up to its biggest lead of the game. A three pointer by Johnson followed quickly by a layup from Ronnie Johnson pushed the Boilermakers up by seven, leading 40-33 with 2:30 down in the half.
Harris would break Purdue's 7-0 run with a driving layup, cutting the deficit back to five at the first media timeout.
West Virginia would try to cut into the lead yet again in the ensuing four-minute period, but Purdue managed to answer nearly every punch the Mountaineers threw. It took a contested straightaway jumper from Harris to break the monotony, cutting the deficit to three with 12:31 remaining in the contest.
A three pointer by Carter, however, pushed the Boilermaker's lead forward yet again before an and-1 opportunity from Staten took the two teams into the second media timeout. Purdue held onto a 47-43 lead.
Following the timeout, the Boilermakers put together their strongest run of the game, taking an eight-point, capped off by a three pointer from Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott midrange jumper. The five quick points put Purdue up 52-44, forcing Coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout with 10:38 remaining in the game.
The adjustments appeared to work for West Virginia with two-straight scoring possessions cutting the Boilermaker's lead to four. The quick spurt forced Purdue to call its own timeout in an effort to kill the Mountaineer's building momentum.
However, the timeout did not work out as well for Purdue as it did for West Virginia. A reverse layup on the baseline for Harris put the Mountaineers to within three of the Boilermakers, trailing 55-52 with seven minutes remaining in the contest.
West Virginia managed to get within two points of the Boilermakers thanks to the efforts of Williams. The freshman big man proved to be a force in the paint in the second half, notching his fourth double-double of the season and getting the Mountaineers to a basket of Purdue, trailing 60-58 with five minutes remaining.
But two points was the closest West Virginia would get before the final media timeout. An open layup by Basil Smotherman put the Boilermakers back up by seven with two minutes remaining while the Mountaineers continued to struggle from the field late.
The Mountaineers would try to make one final push, but ultimately the deficit was just too big to overcome in the final two minutes.
Final: Purdue 73, West Virginia 70
Devin Williams led West Virginia in the loss with his fourth double-double of the season, notching 20 points, 12 rebounds. But ultimately, a 3-18 performance from the three-point line for West Virginia helped Purdue secure the victory.
West Virginia will be taking a few days off for Christmas before returning to action next Sunday against William and Mary at Charleston. Tipoff is set for 3:00pm.