Despite their team’s success in non-conference play, Purdue players have experienced some offensive struggles.
Fortunately for the 10th-ranked Boilermakers (8-2), they have overcome that with a strong defense and by getting contributions at key times.
While continued inconsistency could prove hurtful in the upcoming Big Ten season, Purdue gets a final opportunity to tune up before conference play with Sunday’s home game against struggling in-state opponent Valparaiso (3-8).
In Monday’s 70-55 win over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, Robbie Hummel had his worst offensive performance of the season, failing to reach double figures for the first time as he scored six points on 3-of-10 shooting. He had averaged 21.5 points in his previous two games.
However, E’Twaun Moore broke out of a slump by scoring 19 points, and JaJuan Johnson had a career-high 21 points. Moore had gone 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) from the field in Purdue’s two previous contests and averaged 9.5 points.
Hummel and Moore are the team’s top two scorers for the second straight season. Hummel comes into Sunday’s game averaging 14.9 points, and Moore is at 14.4.
“That’s definitely the beauty of our team,” Johnson said. “There’s so many people that can do different things. If one person’s not doing something, someone else can pick it up.”
After going through a four-game stretch where he averaged 7.8 points, Johnson has scored in double figures in six straight, averaging 15.2 points and shooting 63.9 percent.
Keaton Grant’s struggles, though, have continued. The junior guard averaged 11.2 points and shot 44.0 percent from 3-point range last season, but is down to 31.1 percent this season and scoring 7.8 points per game.
The Boilermakers have played consistent defense and are among the nation’s leaders in giving up 56.9 points and forcing 19.1 turnovers per game. They have also limited opponents to 35.2 percent shooting.
That has helped Purdue win five straight games with an average margin of 24.8 points, including a 76-58 win over then-No. 22 Davidson on Dec. 20.
One of its best defenders, however, is struggling with an injury. Chris Kramer took himself out of Monday’s win because of a nagging sprained left foot, which he played on while guarding national scoring leader Stephen Curry of Davidson.
“I tried to suck it up against Davidson, tried to give the team as much as I could for as long as I could,” he said. “I tried to come back (against IPFW) and I heard it pop a couple times.”
With Wednesday’s Big Ten opener against Illinois coming up, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter could also rest starting forward Nemanja Calasan, who has a sore left knee and played three minutes Monday.
Valparaiso (3-8) comes into Sunday on a four-game losing streak and with a 1-8 record in its last nine after opening the season with consecutive victories.
In their previous game, an 85-60 loss at Central Florida on Monday, the Crusaders allowed the Knights to shoot 63.3 percent and 59.1 from 3-point range (13-for-22).
Senior forward Urule Igbavboa leads the team with 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, but hasn’t scored in double figures in three of the past four games.
Purdue hasn’t faced Valpo since an 87-55 win on Dec. 28, 2002, in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers have won seven straight over the Crusaders and lead the series 12-1, with the only loss coming in 1965.