Purdue's non-conference start this season has been relatively hit or miss, with the team looking really good at some points and then following up with performances reminiscent of last season. The lack of consistency played a huge role as to why Purdue failed to pick up wins against Butler and Washington State, with the loss against the Cougars being a potentially crippling blow to Purdue's NCAA odds. While Purdue took care of Boston College, the win won't look very impressive unless Boston College improves in ACC play. So heading into today's game at West Virginia, the Boilermakers best win so far was a home game against MAC opponent Eastern Michigan.
Well now at least Purdue has a nicer win to add to the resume, though the win could suffer if West Virginia doesn't improve throughout the remainder of the season. The win will look nice as there's some name value in West Virginia, as well as the fact that the win came on the road, but West Virginia still has a RPI outside of the top 100 and now is sitting at a not-so-pretty 7-5. At the end of the day, though, the win will be a solid pickup for Purdue as they'll wrap up non-conference play at 10-3, a considerably nicer mark than 9-4. Even more so when you realize Purdue opens up Big Ten play against Ohio State.
The game didn't start off pretty for either team, with plenty of rough stretches and streaky offenses being showcased on ESPNU. Neither team could open up a lead and the game looked like it was set to enter the break tied, especially since Ronnie Johnson was driving carelessly to the bucket with his head down once again in the closing seconds. However, a put back in the closing seconds by Travis Carroll (his only points) gave the Boilermakers a two point lead at the break.
In the second half Purdue opened up a lead thanks to their ability to hit from beyond the arc, shooting 50% in the second half after shooting 30% in the first half. The three pointers were a nice touch as West Virginia, a predominantly three point shooting offense, hit from less than 20% of their three pointers. Purdue used their outside shooting to open up a lead down the stretch just big enough to hold on at the end. Purdue once again struggled from the line, shooting 61.5% from the line, but made just enough from the line to pick up the win. Down 3 at the end, West Virginia's last second attempt to tie the game was blocked, giving Purdue the 73-70 victory.
Now Purdue will take on Ohio State with the chance for a huge victory if they could pull the upset. Even if they cannot pick up the win, today's game against West Virginia was big for Purdue's tourney odds. It's not going to put them over the top right now, but it helps them avoid a crippling blow to their resume while making their body of work look a little bit more appealing. With 10 wins heading into Big Ten play, the Boilermakers will now likely need to pick up nine or ten wins if they want to make it back to the big dance in March.