Purdue’s chances of winning its first Big Ten title in 12 years and securing the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament will depend on how well it finishes on the road this week.
The 15th-ranked Boilermakers look to take a one-half game lead atop the league standings as they try to snap a seven-game road losing streak to Ohio State on Tuesday night.
Purdue (23-6, 14-2) won 68-43 over Northwestern on Saturday to finish 9-0 at home in conference play. The win helped leave the young Boilermakers in a first-place tie with No. 10 Wisconsin atop the Big Ten standings. The Badgers host Penn State on Wednesday before finishing at Northwestern on Saturday.
If both teams win their final two contests to share the league title, the Boilermakers would earn the No. 1 seed for next week’s conference tournament because they swept the Badgers this season. For that to happen, though, Purdue must win at Ohio State for the first time since a 107-75 victory on Feb. 7, 1998, then at Michigan on Sunday.
The Boilermakers haven’t won a Big Ten title since 1995-96.
Purdue, 5-2 away from home in the Big Ten, had won five in a row on the road before losing 77-68 at then-No. 15 Indiana on Feb. 19.
On Saturday, freshman Robbie Hummel had 15 points, while fellow first-year standout Scott Martin - Hummel’s high school teammate from Valparaiso - added 10 points and nine rebounds as the Boilermakers shook off a poor first-half performance.
“I felt like we were really fortunate to be in the position we were at halftime,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
After shooting 30.4 percent and leading by a point at halftime, Purdue shot 61.9 percent and outscored Northwestern 44-20 in the final 20 minutes.
Freshman guard and leading scorer E’Twaun Moore had just nine points - after averaging 16.3 in his previous 10 games - but recorded six assists.
“They have a nice team, they can go a little bigger or small,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “Those guys are good players, most of them can shoot and the guys who can’t know their roles.”
Though Purdue has struggled at Ohio State (17-12, 8-8), the Boilermakers face a Buckeyes team that has lost four in a row and is on the verge of missing the NCAA tournament after reaching the national championship game in 2006-07.
Junior Marcus Green had 22 points, while Moore added 11 points and eight rebounds in Purdue’s 75-68 home win over Ohio State on Jan. 12.
The Buckeyes lost 71-57 at Minnesota on Saturday, falling to 2-6 since winning three in a row. Kosta Koufus had 17 points and Jamar Butler added 13 for Ohio State, which shot 40.8 percent and was outscored 47-34 in the second half.
The Buckeyes have struggled despite allowing opponents to shoot 38.2 percent - the best of any league team. Ohio State, though, is sixth in the conference in scoring with 67.0 points per game.
The Buckeyes have dropped their last two at home, both against ranked opponents Indiana and Wisconsin.
Butler, who averages a team-leading 14.1 points per game, had 26 against Purdue in January, while the 7-foot freshman Koufus had 12 points and nine rebounds in that contest.