A healthy Robbie Hummel may have made a difference in improving where Purdue finished in the Big Ten.
The No. 24 Boilermakers just hope he’s healthy enough now to help them in the postseason.
Hummel and Purdue play their Big Ten tournament quarterfinal game against Penn State on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse, looking for just its second win in the conference tournament since 2002.
Purdue (22-9) is looking to regain some momentum after dropping three of its final four regular-season games, closing with a 62-51 loss to then-No. 8 Michigan State on Sunday. The third-seeded Boilermakers, who were favored to win their first regular-season title since the 1995-96 season, finished four games behind the Spartans in a tie with Illinois for second place in the Big Ten.
“Our goal was to win the Big Ten and we didn’t,” coach Matt Painter said. “Hopefully we can use that as motivation in Indianapolis.”
Hummel’s back injury played a big part in Purdue falling short. The sophomore, who was the Big Ten preseason player of the year after finishing second on the Boilermakers in scoring and first in rebounding in 2007-08, suffered a hairline fracture of the back and missed five games. Purdue was 2-3 without him in the lineup.
Hummel, who missed both games against Penn State (22-10), played in Purdue’s final seven games, averaging 10.4 points. He shot only 39.0 percent in those games, and 27.8 percent (5-of-18) in the final two. Hummel finished the season scoring eight points in each of his final two games after averaging 20.5 in the previous two.
Purdue finished the regular season with one of its worst offensive performances of the season. The Boilermakers shot a season-low 28.3 percent against the Spartans and were outrebounded 50-32. Purdue was the second highest-scoring team in the Big Ten during the regular season, averaging 69.3 points, but it scored just 56.0 per game in the final two.
Painter admitted he had worries about the offense going into the postseason.
“I’m real concerned about the offense,” he said. “Anytime you struggle to score the basketball, you need to re-evaluate.”
Purdue, which is 4-11 all-time in the Big Ten tournament is looking to win its first title.
Penn State, meanwhile, could take a huge step towards its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001 with a victory. The sixth-seeded Nittany Lions have won five of their last seven, and advanced with a 66-51 win over Indiana.
Jamelle Corney scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half, when Penn State built a 13-point lead, and Stanley Pringle added 16.
The Nittany Lions, though, will need Talor Battle to have a better game Friday if they hope to keep up with the Boilermakers. Battle—the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game—was held to three points on 1-of-3 shooting Thursday.
The sophomore was held scoreless in Penn State’s 61-47 loss to Purdue on Feb. 11, but did have 21 in the victory in January.
“Talor’s banged,” Nittany Lions coach Ed DeChellis said. “He’s had a foot that’s been banged up about a week, 10 days now. We tried in practice to give him as many reps off as we possibly could. … We gotta have energy (Friday).”
Penn State last advanced to the semifinals in 2001.
The winner of this game will face the Illinois-Michigan winner on Saturday.