When Purdue hosts No. 5 Virginia, the matchup will look a lot different than last year’s Elite Eight overtime game that propelled the Cavaliers to the Final Four. And in another respect, it will be much the same.
The two teams meet at 7:15 p.m. tonight in Mackey Arena and on ESPN2 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Gone from Purdue is Carsen Edwards who was the only Boilermaker in double figures from the March 30 game. Edwards, who was 14 of 25 from the field – including 10 of 19 from 3-point range – and 4 of 4 from the line, scored 42 in that game. Also gone are Grady Eifert and Ryan Cline who played 18 and 44 minutes respectively, but the two only scored 7 points between them.
Departed from Virginia include Kyle Guy (25 points and 10 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament game against Purdue), Ty Jerome (24 points and played all 45 minutes of the game) and De’Andre Hunter (10 points). Combined, that trio scored 73.8 percent of Virginia’s 80 points.
Virginia, which won the national title in 2018-19 with a 35-3 record, led the nation in defensive scoring giving up just 56.1 points per game. The Cavs were also No. 5 in defensive field goal percentage as opponents shot just 38.5 percent against them.
Fast forward to Dec. 4, 2019 – Virginia (7-0), minus three starters from last year’s team, again leads the nation in defensive scoring (40.3 points per game) and is No. 1 in defensive field goal percentage (28.8 percent). Purdue, meanwhile, is No. 16 in scoring defense (58.4 points per game given up) and No. 54 in field goal percentage defense (38.5 percent).
“Their roster has turned over as much as anybody (in the nation),” Coach Matt Painter said this week. “They are not bankrupt. They still have two guys who started (last year) who are still playing for them. They have two guys who came off the bench that were significant players for them, but they still lost three guys to the draft early.”
Still, Virginia has rebounded from those player losses to be a Top 5 team in the nation.
“You have to give them credit for what they’ve been able to do defensively and what they have been able to do with their success,” Painter said.
Mamadi Diakite, a 6-9 senior, is Virginia’s leading scorer this season. He’s averaging 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Also averaging double figures is Jay Huff, a 7-1 junior center, at 10.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. Huff is shooting 68.1 percent from the field this season.
Those two have scored 24.2 points per game, or 43.9 percent of the team’s 55.1 points per game this season.
The remaining starters are Kihei Clark, 5-9 sophomore (9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds), Casey Morsell, 6-3 freshman (5.0 points, 2.7 rebounds) and Tomas Woldetensae, 6-5 junior (3.2 points, 3.0 rebounds).
Purdue is likely to counter with double-digit scoring starters Jahaad Procter, 6-3 senior who leads the team with a 14.6 points per game average, Matt Haarms, 7-3 junior who averages 11.7, and Eric Hunter Jr. who averages 10.3. The other two starters will likely be Aaron Wheeler, 6-9 sophomore at 6.4 points per game, and Nojel Easter, 6-7 senior at 3.7 per game.
While Virginia’s prowess on defense is well documented, it is No. 346 nationally scoring at 55.1 points per game. Purdue, comparatively is No. 221 at 70.4 per game.
The Boilermakers (4-3), on paper, has two advantages – 3-pointer shooting percentage and 3s made per game. Purdue makes an average of 6.9 from long range a game (No. 212 nationally) and is shooting 31.0 percent. Virginia makes 4.9 from long range a game (No. 332 of 350 teams) at 25.2 percent (No. 341 nationally).