Purdue men’s basketball tips-off the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament on Thanksgiving night against West Virginia after a 3-0 start to the season.
The Boilermakers (3-0) take on the Mountaineers (4-0) after a nine-day hiatus from regular-season play. In its most recent match, Purdue held off Marquette with the help of Braden Smith and David Jenkins Jr. late in the second half.
Smith was named Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week after contributing 20 points and three assists in the team’s only game last week.
The Mountaineers have won all four of their games to start the season, doing so by 18 or more points in each. Despite the wins on paper, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins cited rebounding and defensive issues as problems for the team early this year.
“We’re last in the league in rebounding, which if you asked a couple of our guys, they would say that's because we make more shots (and get less opportunities),” Huggins said. “There might be some truth to that, but we gotta guard better, we really haven't guarded very well.”
Every team takes into account the impact of 7-foot-4-inch Zach Edey, but as is common in pre-conference opponents, the height difference can be significant.
“I saw (Edey) when he first signed to Purdue, and he's come a long, long way,” Huggins said. “But he's always had great hands. Yeah, he’s 7-4, our biggest guy 6-10 — what's that, six inches?”
Head coach Matt Painter said not all of his guys are always looking to feed Edey in the post, something which will likely be the key to offensive dominance against an undersized West Virginia.
“We’ve got guys with their heads to the ground, we’ve got guys that catch the ball at the top and don’t look in. We’ve got guys that dribble in, and he’s got guys buried, and they don’t see him,” Painter said. “We’re struggling in that area, and I’m being serious. They have to do a better job of delivering the basketball and getting him the ball when he’s open.”
Purdue plays Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. EST, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.