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Boilers pull away from Leathernecks

Updated: April 23, 2013 1:50PM



WEST LAFAYETTE — Western Illinois played without its two leading scorers against Purdue on Wednesday in the team’s opening round game of the College Basketball Invitational.

It was hard to tell early in the game.

The visiting Leathernecks led a majority of the first half before Purdue pulled away for an 81-67 win, advancing to play Santa Clara in Mackey Arena on Monday.

Don McAvoy led Western Illinois with 16 points, while Remy Roberts-Burnett added 15. They combined to score 21 of those points in the first half, despite entering the game averaging six points apiece.

The Leathernecks (22-9) led by as many as nine points in the first half, before Purdue slowly chipped away to take a 37-34 halftime lead.

“They really exposed us when we had breakdowns,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “...I think what our guys don’t understand is there are good players everywhere. (Roberts-Burnett and McAvoy) are good players, too, but some of our guys don’t look at it that way. Even after 30-some games you have to understand that. It just happened to us against Nebraska.”

Purdue (16-17) had enjoyed a late-season surge with upset wins at Wisconsin and against Minnesota, but fell flat in the Big Ten Tournament with a loss to Nebraska.

The Boilermakers’ offensive execution picked up in the second half against the Leathernecks, making 6 of 7 from beyond the arc and shooting 64 percent from the field.

Purdue extended its lead to 12 points just seven minutes into the second half, and never let it slip into single-digits the remainder of the game.

The turnaround was due to one thing, said Purdue guard Ronnie Johnson: effort.

“We let them get their heads up and when teams get their heads up and are confident, they’re pretty good,” said Johnson, who scored 14 points. “It was just from an effort standpoint. We started to play harder and that kind of took care of itself.”

A.J. Hammons led Purdue with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting, scoring 11 of his points in the first half. There is still plenty of room for improvement, as Western Illinois had a size disadvantage with starting forward Terell Parks on the bench with an ankle injury.

“A.J. has to continue to work to fight for position and continue to hold people off,” Painter said. “He settles and allows the catch at 12 feet and he needs to catch the ball a lot deeper.”

Western Illinois senior Jack Houpt, a Chesterton graduate, finished with six points on two made 3-pointers in his final game.

Houpt started 87 games during his three years with Western Illinois, playing more than 1,000 minutes this season for the regular season Summit League co-champions.

“Jack had a terrific career,” Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari said. “He came every day and I can’t remember him ever missing a practice...he’s competitive and was a big part of the championship that I’m sure he’ll remember.”

Houpt averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game this season, scoring 667 points during his WIU career.

“Jack might not have (big) numbers, but he’s always guarded, so his value is that nobody can ever leave him alone,” Molinari said. “He also had great defensive awareness. He’ll be greatly missed at Western.”



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