Thursday, August 4, 2011

Iona Draws Purdue in Puerto Rico Event

OK, maybe Purdue should just join the MAAC.

After its first game of the coming season Purdue will have faced MAAC opponents twice in its previous three games, and three times in the previous 20 months.

The Boilermakers knocked off Saint Peter's, 65-43, in the first round of this past season's NCAA tournament before their season ended with a 94-76 defeat at the hands of VCU.

And, now, they open the 2011-12 season by meeting potential MAAC preseason favorite Iona in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.

It will be the first-ever meeting between the programs (game time is 1 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, and will be televised on ESPNU). But, Purdue has a familiarity with MAAC opponents dating back a year earlier when it knocked off Siena, 72-64, in a first-round NCAA tournament game at the end of the 2009-10 season.

Iona comes in off a 25-12 record last year and advanced to the championship game of the postseason tournament before its season ended. The Gaels have every player of significance returning and are being touted, by some preseason publications, as this season's favorite to win the conference's regular-season title.

The winner of the first game in the 8-team Puerto Rico event will advance to take on either Temple or Western Michigan in the second round on Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. with the loser going to a consolation round game at 3:30 p.m.

The final day of competition is Sunday, Nov. 20, with the championship game to be played at 8 p.m.

The tournament's other bracket has Maryland taking on Alabama and Wichita State squaring off with Colorado. the bracket.

The Gaels should have as good, if not a better, chance to knock off Purdue than the last two MAAC teams to try.

Purdue lost its top two players to graduation, and to the NBA draft, since last season. Center JuJuan Johnson and swingman E'Twaun Moore, were both picked in the recent NBA draft. Together, they scored 35 of Purdue's 65 points in the victory over Saint Peter's.

Purdue's top returning player from a year ago is 5-8 point guard Lewis Jackson, who averaged 8.0 points and 4.0 assists per game. Also returning, though is 6-9 senior forward Robbie Hummel, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Hummel averaged 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a junior in 2009-10, and is expected to be one of the better players nationally this coming season.

"We're really looking forward to the challenge in Puerto Rico to open the season," said Iona's second-year head coach Tim Cluess. "Purdue presents a tough matchup and to get to play on national television against a program with such great basketball history is a tremendous honor for Iona."

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