No. 4 Purdue beats No. 6 West Virginia 77-62 in battle of unbeatens

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue center JaJuan Johnson single-handedly negated West Virginia’s overall size advantage and turned a showdown between unbeatens into a blowout.

Johnson had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 4 Purdue beat sixth-ranked West Virginia 77-62 on Friday.

Purdue coach Matt Painter was concerned heading into the game because West Virginia’s starters all stand between 6-foot-7 and 6-9. The 6-10 Johnson stood the tallest, making 8 of 14 field goals and blocking two shots.

Johnson was more focused on the team effort and the perfect non-conference season than his individual statistics.

“We came ready to play,” he said. “Once we get things clicking on offense, we<

Purdue expected Johnson to be a key factor because West Virginia switches on screens, which the Boilermakers thought would create mismatches. West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler said the Mountaineers didn’t work together defensively.

“Johnson just had like, eight dunks, with no help-side at all,” he said.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was disappointed in his team’s defensive effort against Johnson.

“I think our point guards did a better job of guarding him than our big guys did,” Huggins said. “He destroyed our bigs. Maybe we should have kept our point guards on him.”

Robbie Hummel scored 18 points and E’Twaun Moore added 15 for the Boilermakers, whose largest lead was 26 points.

Purdue (13-0) is one of five unbeaten teams in the nation. When asked if the Boilermakers made a case for the No. 1 ranking, Painter said check back in a month.

“We have to prove ourselves and be more consistent,” he said. “We’re getting into league play. We’ll see how we play on the road.”

The Mountaineers (11-1) were bidding for their first 12-0 start since the 1957-58 season, but Purdue handled West Virginia’s star guard combination of Butler and Devin Ebanks. Butler scored 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Ebanks scored 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Huggins said his young team had two major disadvantages heading into the game — youth and playing at Mackey Arena.

“It’s a hard environment to play in, and second, I’ve got a lot of young kids, and they’ve got veterans.”

The Boilermakers forced the Mountaineers into 18 turnovers, tied for the most West Virginia has committed this season. Purdue pressured West Virginia’s big guards to disrupt their flow and prevent them from setting up their halfcourt offense.

“It was pretty much like a debacle, honestly,” Butler said. “They pressure the ball, but the thing they really did is just took us out of a lot of stuff. It’s very difficult when we’re being taken out of our offense, and guys aren’t coming to the ball. We were getting taken out of our offense, and we didn’t take them out of anything. They just scored whenever they wanted.”

Purdue led 37-32 at halftime and outscored West Virginia 14-2 in the first 3:26 of the second half to take control.

Moore opened the second half with a mid-range jumper and was fouled on a 3-pointer on Purdue’s next possession. He missed the first free throw, made the second and missed the third, but dunked his miss one-handed to put the Boilermakers ahead 42-32.

Back-to-back dunks by Johnson and Keaton Grant pushed the lead to 46-34 two minutes into the second half. The Boilermakers continued the attack with a 3-pointer by Ryne Smith and a long jumper by Hummel to push the lead to 51-34.

The Boilermakers made 10 of their first 12 field goals in the second half and shot 59 percent after the break.

“One team dictated how the game was going to be played,” Huggins said. “We didn’t respond.”

Huggins said the game was good for his team.

“We’re going to play at Connecticut and at Villanova,” he said. “We’d better learn how to play in these types of environments.”

Painter said the focus now is winning the Big Ten. He figures that if the Boilermakers win the league, their non-conference slate should give them a shot at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“You split your resume into parts,” Painter said. “We’re finished with this part, and we did everything that we could.”

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