After falling short in its first three tries, Purdue finally got a conference win without Robbie Hummel in its last outing.
With the star forward’s back injury still lingering, the 20th-ranked Boilermakers hope to duplicate that performance as they visit Big Ten rival Iowa on Saturday.
Hummel has missed five games with back problems, including the last three after being diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his lower back.
Though Hummel hasn’t been ruled out for this game, Purdue coach Matt Painter said Wednesday that the Big Ten preseason player of the year won’t return to the court until he has healed enough to play consistently.
“Everybody is itching to want him to get back,” Painter said. “I think the key for him is to get back, then stay.”
Hummel’s absence has had a dramatic effect on the Boilermakers (18-6, 7-4), particularly in conference play. When he plays, Purdue is 6-1, averages 67.3 points and allows 58.7. When he sits, Purdue is 1-3 and scores 61.3 points per game while giving up 65.0.
Hummel’s averaging 10.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in Big Ten play, but Painter said those numbers don’t fully explain his value.
“Rob does something for us offensively and defensively that balances our team,” Painter said. “He’s a facilitator. He moves the basketball, he makes the extra pass, he gets the ball inside. … Some of the basic things that don’t show up in a box score is what we miss.”
The Boilermakers managed to overcome Hummel’s absence in a 61-47 win over Penn State on Wednesday night.
After giving up 80 points in a loss to Ohio State last Tuesday and scoring only 48 in a defeat at Illinois on Sunday, the Boilermakers delivered on both ends of the court Wednesday, playing solid defense and getting at least 10 points from four different players. JaJuan Johnson led the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds, his second consecutive double-double.
Painter hopes that’s an indicator that his team’s learned what it takes to win without its star.
“When you play without someone that you’re accustomed to, it takes time,” Painter said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it takes time to understand what you have to do to be successful.”
Hummel had nine points and Purdue cruised to a 75-53 victory in its first meeting with Iowa (13-12, 3-9) on Jan. 18, the Boilermakers’ fourth straight win in the series.
Iowa fell 69-52 to Wisconsin on Wednesday night for its fifth loss in six games. Sophomore guard Jake Kelly had 17 points and went 7-for-9 from the field as the Hawkeyes shot 50.0 percent as a team, but they let the Badgers shoot 53.1 percent.
“Anytime we lose it is quiet and guys have their heads down,” Kelly told the team’s official Web site. “Tomorrow morning we are going to wake up and it is a new day and we will focus on the next opponent.”
That should be easier to do at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa is 11-2. The Hawkeyes, however, have dropped five of their last six home games against ranked opponents.
David Palmer led Iowa with 19 points against Purdue, and followed that game with a career-high 21 in a win over Wisconsin. Since then, the center has been held to 3.8 points over five games—all losses.