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West Virginia, Purdue similar in many ways

Updated: February 20, 2013 6:13AM



As he assesses West Virginia, Purdue coach Matt Painter sees various familiar elements on various levels.

“They’ve been inconsistent like us, so they’re trying to find their way,” Painter said of the Mountaineers, the Boilermakers’ opponent on Saturday afternoon at Mackey Arena. “They’ve had some good moments, they’ve had some down moments. So we’re very similar. … It’s going to be very comparable to what you go against in a normal Big Ten game.

“They’re searching to get some consistency, just like us. With that, you have different lineups, you’re going to have different guys playing. You’re just trying to find the right pieces on each night to help your team win. They have a lot of guys that possibly could play, a lot of different looks.”

For the third time in four seasons, the teams step out of their respective conference schedules to play each other, with West Virginia (8-8) in its first season in the Big 12; the Mountaineers fell to 1-3 with a 69-67 loss at Iowa State on Wednesday. In 2011, West Virginia topped Purdue 68-64 in Morgantown; in 2010, the No. 4 Boilermakers beat the No. 6 Mountaineers, who went on to the Final Four, 77-62. The series resumes after a one-season hiatus, and the initial four-game deal concludes next season at West Virginia.

“You know it’s going to be an NCAA-caliber team,” said Painter, whose Boilermakers (9-8, 3-2 Big Ten) have beaten Penn State and Nebraska in their last two games. “You know they’re going to be tough, you know they’re going to be physical, they’re going to play good defense.

They’re very similar to a handful of teams that we have in the Big Ten. It’s just a quality game versus a Hall of Fame coach. We felt when we did this, made the four-game series, it would really help us and help our schedule. There’s no doubt, win or lose, that you’re going to be a better basketball team after playing a Bob Huggins-coached team.”

Sophomore guard Juwan Staten — who sat out last season after transferring from Dayton, where he averaged 5.4 assists as a freshman — leads this Mountaineers team in scoring at 10.3 points per game.

Aaric Murray, a 6-foot-10 junior center who sat out last season after transferring from LaSalle, averages 10.0 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Painter would like to extend the series with West Virginia beyond next season, if the schedules can be aligned.

“If you don’t play them, you’re just going to try to schedule something very similar,” he said. “Any time you can alternate years and get a quality opponent like that to come in to your own arena, that helps you. It’s a hard thing to do.”

Around the rim: A.J. Hammons is one of two freshmen in the power six conferences averaging at least 10 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, along with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel. Hammons is second on the Boilermakers with 10.6 points, and leads with 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. … Purdue is 5-1 all-time against West Virginia, including 2-0 at Mackey.



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