Purdue certainly could have used Robbie Hummel in its last matchup with Ohio State. He appears back up to speed just in time for the rematch.
Trying to hold on to their slim hopes for a Big Ten title, Hummel and the 16th-ranked Boilermakers look to bounce back from a loss and end their struggles against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Purdue (21-7, 10-5) had a four-game winning streak snapped Thursday night, losing 87-78 at Michigan.
The Boilermakers have just three games left and trail first-place Michigan State by two games in the Big Ten. They will close the regular season against the ninth-ranked Spartans on March 8.
“We pretty much eliminated ourselves from the race,” coach Matt Painter said. “We’re not mathematically out of it, but we’ll need some help from Michigan State to make that last game in East Lansing matter.”
If Purdue can’t earn the top spot, a stumbling point it will surely regret is an 80-72 overtime loss at Ohio State (18-8, 8-7) on Feb. 3. The Buckeyes have won 16 of the last 18 meetings in the series, taking the last two in OT.
The Boilermakers were without Hummel, perhaps their best all-around player, in the last game against Ohio State due to a hairline fracture in his back that caused him to miss another two contests. The sophomore forward’s strong play, however, was one of the few bright spots Purdue was able to take from its matchup with Michigan.
Hummel had 24 points, finishing one shy of his career high and showing he has regained confidence. He averaged 5.3 points and shot 27.8 percent (5-for-18) in his first three games back.
“The way he looked and played was the one positive we can take,” Painter said. “He had spring in his legs and he was able to play a lot.”
Hummel was on the court for all but one minute of an intense game.
“This was a test for me, going 39,” he said. “I felt as good as I have since I got hurt.”
Hummel is averaging 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He’ll likely be matched up at times with Buckeyes swingman Evan Turner, who had 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the last meeting between the teams.
Turner’s averaging 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Ohio State overcame a subpar scoring game from Turner in its last contest, beating Penn State 73-59 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak. Turner finished with six points after failing to score in the first 32 minutes.
P.J. Hill, making his first start in his 49th game with the Buckeyes, brought energy at both ends of the floor and finished with a career-high 13 points. Hill started in place of Jeremie Simmons, who actually suggested the switch to Ohio State’s coaching staff.
“Jeremie just said, ‘I can play better. I want to play better. I’d like to try coming off the bench,’” coach Thad Matta said. “That says a lot about him.”
Simmons had 14 points after scoring a combined five in his previous three games. He went scoreless in 18 minutes in this season’s first matchup with Purdue.