The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:00 am

Purdue gets call to play in Brooklyn

To face West Virginiain Hall of Fame event

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The Purdue men's basketball team will play West Virginia in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational on Dec. 13, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced Monday. The game will be part of a triple-header, which will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Penn State will play Florida in one of the other two matchups. 

The Boilermakers haven't played in the Hall of Fame Invitational before, nor at the Barclays Center, but they have played – and won – in New York recently. The 2018 Big Ten Tournament was played in Madison Square Garden, and Purdue advanced to the finals before falling to Michigan, which went on to reach the national championship game.

The Boilermakers also emerged with a 97-64 victory over Arizona State in their last regular-season matchup in New York, a Madison Square Garden faceoff that was part of the Jimmy V Classic in December 2016.

Purdue and West Virginia have plenty of history, as well. The Boilers have won seven of the eight meetings between the teams, though the most recent matchup came in 2013, the last of four straight years in which the Mountaineers and Boilermakers clashed. More recently, the teams have held preseason “secret scrimmages” against one another, full-speed games with real referees and clock usage, but no fans.

West Virginia, led by coach Bob Huggins since 2007, has been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament's upper echelons in the past decade, earning a top-five seed in March Madness six times from 2010 to 2019 and reaching the Sweet 16 three times since 2015. After a 15-21 season in 2018-19, the Mountaineers rebounded with a 21-10 record this season and were listed as a No. 7 seed in ESPN's final bracket projections before the rest of the season was canceled.

Huggins' team will be more or less intact next season as the top three scorers and four of the top five were either freshmen or sophomores. The Mountaineers were led by 2019 five-star recruit Oscar Tshiebwe, a 6-foot-9 center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who averaged 11.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and shot 55% from the field as a freshman.

He teamed with 6-10 sophomore Derek Culver – who chipped in 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game – to form a formidable interior defense that helped hold opponents to just 62.4 points per game, 16th-best in the country.

The matchup against the Mountaineers will be part of another tough non-conference slate for the Boilermakers as they try to bounce back from a 16-15 season.

Already on the schedule are Cancun Challenge games in November against two of Mississippi State, Clemson and Illinois State, plus a yet-to-be-announced Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup and a Crossroads Classic game against Notre Dame on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis.

The Boilermakers will be tested early once again before playing the grueling 20-game Big Ten schedule. It's a slate ripe with tournament résumé builders if Purdue can find a way to win some of them.

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