After losing consecutive games with Robbie Hummel in the lineup, Purdue delivered its best game of the season with the preseason Big Ten player of the year sidelined. That’s good news for the Boilermakers, who aren’t sure when their top player will return.
The 14th-ranked Boilermakers may need to overcome Hummel’s continued absence as they visit Ball State on Tuesday night.
After getting off to a 5-0 start against mostly overmatched opponents, Purdue (6-2) suffered consecutive defeats against ranked teams, falling 87-82 in overtime against then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov. 28 and 76-60 to then-No. 4 Duke last Tuesday.
Hummel took a hit to the lower back while going for a rebound in the final minutes of the loss to the Blue Devils, and sat out the Boilermakers’ 90-42 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday night.
The sophomore forward has averaged 14.3 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds in his first seven games. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to return.
“He tried to practice (Friday), the key word being try,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after Saturday’s game. “As soon as he got out there, you could tell he was in a lot of pain.”
Though losing Hummel for an extended period would be tough for the Boilermakers, they have to be encouraged after Saturday’s performance. Purdue’s 48-point victory matched the seventh-largest margin in school history, and was the program’s most lopsided win since 1983.
The Boilermakers matched or exceeded their season highs in points, field-goal percentage (48.5), rebounds (49) and assists (21). They also forced 35 turnovers and held the Golden Lions to 23.4 percent shooting.
“The team had to pick up a little bit with Rob being gone,” said sophomore center JaJuan Johnson, who had 20 points and eight rebounds - both season highs. “He’s a major player for us, so we just had to do our part as a team and step up with a little extra effort tonight.”
Ball State (4-3) didn’t look ready in its last game, falling behind early and trailing by as many as 19 points in a 73-63 loss to Evansville. Senior forward Anthony Newell had his fifth double-double in six games with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cardinals, who missed eight free throws while getting outscored 22-12 at the line.
Ball State has lost six of eight all-time meetings with Purdue, including a 70-57 defeat in West Lafayette on Dec. 5 of last season. The Cardinals, though, won their last meeting against a ranked Boilermakers team, upsetting 24th-ranked Purdue 72-52 on Dec. 18, 1999.
Purdue guard Keaton Grant, averaging 8.4 points and shooting just 32.8 percent from the field this season, led the team with 15 points in last season’s win over Ball State. Hummel was held to six points, but added six rebounds and a career-high seven assists.