Tale Of The Tape: No. 5 Virginia at Purdue

Photo by Jon Golden

When Virginia went up against Purdue for a spot in the Final Four last season, the Cavaliers may as well have been playing in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Boilermakers call home.

The game was played in Louisville, of course, but anyone who was in attendance that night will tell you the black-clad Purdue fans were out in droves and they were very, very loud. We all remember how the Wahoos fought through it all and won not only the Purdue game, but the whole enchilada, in dramatic fashion.

Wednesday night, the two squads will square off for a rematch, although with a much different feel. No. 5 UVA (7-0) and Purdue (4-3) will both have several new faces on the floor for this ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup (7:15 p.m., ESPN2).

Gone are De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and Jack Salt for the ‘Hoos, who accounted for close to 50 points a game last season. Gone are Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert for the Boilermakers, who accounted for over 40 a night last season.

Two guys we know won’t be phased are Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite, who collaborated for one of the most incredible plays in NCAA Tournament history that night against Purdue. They, along with forward Jay Huff, will likely be the only players on the floor Wednesday for Virginia who played in last year’s game, as Braxton Key is still dealing with a wrist injury and is not expected to suit up.

On the flip side for Purdue, Eric Hunter Jr., Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern all saw action against the Cavaliers in March, and will each be playing more significant minutes Wednesday night.

Haarms, a 7-foot-3 junior center, and Hunter Jr., a sophomore guard, are back to lead Painter’s team along with senior guard Jahaad Proctor, a transfer from High Point who leads Purdue in scoring this season with 14.6 points per contest. Proctor, who scored double digits in his final 16 games last season, has scored in double figures in all seven games with his new team.

Eastern, a junior guard who started and played 31 minutes against UVA in the Big Dance, and sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler, who also played 22 minutes last season against the ‘Hoos off the bench, round out the starting five.

Returning sharpshooter reserves Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic join another long-range specialist, Isaiah Thompson, off the bench. Those three have combined for exactly half of Purdue’s 3-point makes (29 of 48) thus far.

One thing is for certain — this will be the toughest challenge the Cavaliers have faced this season. We mentioned how loud it got at the KFC Yum! Center that night… and that was on a neutral floor. Not only will this be a tough road environment to begin with Wednesday, but the Purdue players, coach Matt Painter and the Boilermaker fans will be hungry to avenge the unforgettable tournament loss in late March.

Virginia is third overall in the latest KenPom ratings (1st AdjD, 91st AdjO), while Purdue is No. 13 overall (7th AdjD, 31st AdjO). Painter’s team is holding opponents to 27 percent (38 for 141) from 3-point land, good for 27th in the country in that category (Virginia is 8th at 25 percent). Purdue is limiting its foes to just 30 rebounds a game (34th nationally) and is 17th in scoring defense with 58.4 points surrendered (UVA leads all teams with just 40.3 points given up).

The Boilermakers got past then-No. 20 VCU in Friday’s Emerald Coast Classic semifinals (59-56) before falling to Florida State — the last team to defeat Virginia — in Saturday’s championship game, 63-60, in overtime. Purdue also has wins against Green Bay, Chicago State and Jacksonville State, with losses to Texas (70-66) at home and Marquette (65-55) on the road.

The ACC owned the first 10 matchups in the annual Challenge, winning in all 10 seasons from 1999-2008. Since then, the Big Ten has claimed five of the previous 10, with three ties.

UVA has won five straight games in the Challenge, the second-longest win streak behind Duke’s seven. The ‘Hoos sport the third-best winning percentage in the event (.684, 13-6) behind just the Blue Devils (.900, 18-2) and Wake Forest (.706, 12-5). The Cavaliers’ road record is 6-4 in the Challenge.


  1. Michael Almond says:

    Well explained and detailed article of past and current.

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