GAME NOTES: The Purdue Boilermakers make their first-ever appearance in the College Basketball Invitational on Wednesday night, as they host the Leathernecks of Western Illinois at Mackey Arena.
It may have been a bit of a reach, considering Purdue finished the season two games under .500 (15-17), but the Boilermakers have at least won four straight home dates against non-conference competition. However, versus Big Ten foes in West Lafayette during 2012-13, Purdue was just 5-4, the most recent setback coming against Michigan by an 89-75 score on March 6.
After defeating Minnesota in the final game of the regular season, the Boilermakers then turned around and dropped a 57-55 decision to Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament six days ago.
As for the Leathernecks, who appeared in this event last season but immediately fell to Oregon State in Corvallis by an 80-59 score, they've already set the program record for the most wins in a season at the Division I level with 22. The squad did take out South Dakota by a single point, 54-53, during the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament on March 9, but then two days later suffered a 55-43 setback versus North Dakota State in the semifinals at Sioux Falls Arena.
According to Purdue sources, the Boilermakers have won all four previous meetings between the programs, the most recent being an 83-48 thrashing at home back in 1999. Each encounter has been decided by at least 22 points.
The winner of this game will be back in action next Monday versus Santa Clara, which defeated Vermont in the first round on Tuesday night by a score of 77-67.
The Leathernecks are a team that bases much of their success on defense, having held opponents to just 52.7 ppg this season. Playing a big part at both ends of the floor for Western Illinois is Terell Parks, who not only leads the program in scoring and rebounding with averages of 12.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg, he also logged 65 of the unit's 125 blocked shots which was more than enough to earn him Summit League Defensive Player of the Year honors, as well as a spot on the All-Summit First Team along with Ceola Clark. Averaging close to 36 minutes per game, Clark knocked down 41.5 percent of his 3-point shots as hew accounted for 12.5 ppg. Clark was also first on the unit with 124 assists and 56 steals.
Part of the reason why the Boilermakers had their problems this season was because of their youth. The team has three freshmen in the starting lineup, one of which made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team as A.J. Hammons averaged 10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 2.0 bpg, the only freshman among the BCS conferences that averaged at least those numbers. Named to the All-Big Ten Third Team by the coaches, Terone Johnson carried a bit more of the scoring load for Purdue as he delivered 13.3 ppg, averaging close to 16.0 ppg over the last nine games for the program. D.J. Byrd, the lone senior starter, was credited with 10.2 ppg for a group that produced 65.2 ppg as they shot a disappointing 64.1 percent at the free-throw line.
Considering how the season played out for the Boilermakers, you have to wonder if they thought their campaign was over once they were bumped from the conference tournament. How much incentive does Purdue have to take out the Leathernecks? Probably not much.
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