MORGANTOWN - West Virginia nearly gave away Sunday afternoon's game with No. 8 Purdue at the Coliseum.
The Mountaineers have had turnover problems at times this season, but nothing like this. In the first half alone, they gave the ball away 13 times. At halftime, 18 of the Boilermakers' 28 points came off of WVU miscues.
"But they weren't really turning us over,'' said West Virginia point guard Joe Mazzulla. "We were just throwing the ball away.''
The Mountaineers solved those turnover problems for the most part in the second half. They turned it over just four times after intermission and managed to beat Purdue, 68-64, in front of a sellout crowd of 14,173.
But Mazzulla was right about Purdue not necessarily forcing all those first-half turnovers. Yes, the Boilermakers' nasty man-to-man defense contributed mightily, but here's a telling statistic: While WVU was charged with 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, Purdue was given credit for only four steals. By contrast, the Mountaineers stole the ball four times among Purdue's six first-half turnovers.
"We did a terrible job taking care of the ball,'' said starting point guard Truck Bryant. "And it wasn't just me and Joe. It was everybody.''
How bad was it? Well, three times in the first half, Purdue had little runs of 5-0, 6-2 and 4-0. Those don't sound like much, but in a game where neither team led by more than six points, they were crucial.
The first of those Purdue runs was at the beginning of the game, when West Virginia turned the ball over four times and got off just one shot in four possessions. During the second run, WVU was 0-for-5 from the floor and turned it over twice in seven possessions. And during the third, the Mountaineers had four turnovers and missed three shots in six possessions.
"We turned it over 13 times because we tried to make plays that weren't there,'' coach Bob Huggins said.
As has usually been the case, though, halftime provided a remedy. In the second half West Virginia turned it over three times in the middle of the 20-minute period, but then just once in the final nine minutes.