Following its worst conference start in three seasons, Purdue has worked its way back toward the top of the Big Ten standings.
The 18th-ranked Boilermakers go for their fourth straight win on Thursday night as they face a No. 21 Minnesota team that returns home after seeing its own four-game winning streak snapped.
Purdue (14-4, 3-2) lost to Illinois and Penn State to open Big Ten play, but has bounced back to win three straight, including a 75-53 home victory over Iowa on Sunday. Junior guard Keaton Grant scored in double figures for the first time in seven games, totaling 12 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting.
“At the beginning of the season, I was worrying too much about hitting open shots,” said Grant, who had been shooting just 30.0 percent from beyond the arc prior to Sunday. “I was rushing shots, falling back.”
Grant’s 44.0 3-point field-goal percentage ranked third in the Big Ten in 2007-08.
“I think it’s going to take a string of games to really get him going,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I think if we can get him going, it will really help.”
In the teams’ last meeting, Grant went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and scored 11 points off the bench in a 65-53 Purdue win at home over Minnesota on Feb. 27.
E’Twaun Moore had 13 points and three assists on Sunday as the Boilermakers recorded 19 assists - their most since the start of league play.
“I think the most important thing for us is just probing the defense a little more and making the extra pass,” Painter said. “With that, I think our percentages are going to go up.”
Offenses facing Purdue are not having success. The Boilermakers have held 14 of their 18 opponents below 40 percent shooting, and their 36.0 field-goal percentage allowed leads the nation.
While Purdue looks to snap a three-game slide at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) will try to get back on track after their four-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in a 74-65 loss at Northwestern in which they missed 12 of their first 13 shots in the second half.
Minnesota will also have to do a better job controlling the basketball after committing a season-high 19 turnovers Sunday. Purdue is forcing a conference-best 16.7 turnovers per game.
Junior guard Lawrence Westbrook led the Golden Gophers with 18 points and a season-high eight boards on Sunday, but Minnesota went scoreless for a 7:32 stretch and couldn’t recover.
“(The Wildcats) slow down the tempo and they use the game clock,” Westbrook said. “If you get down big against them, it’s virtually impossible to come back.”
Westbrook missed all five of his field-goal attempts and scored just four points in last season’s loss to then-No. 16 Purdue.
Minnesota will be without Kevin Payton after the redshirt junior point guard was suspended indefinitely for academic reasons. Senior center Jon Williams injured his calf in practice this week and also could miss this contest.
Purdue has won two straight against the Golden Gophers overall, but has lost five of its last six visits to Minnesota.