Purdue’s last visit to Conseco Fieldhouse ended with it winning the program’s first-ever Big Ten tournament title.
While the conference season is still two weeks away, the fourth-ranked and undefeated Boilermakers still have a lot on the line in their return to Indianapolis on Saturday when they take on Ball State in the Wooden Tradition.
Purdue (9-0) is looking to win 10 consecutive games to start the season for the first time since a school-best 14-0 start in 1993-94.
The Boilermakers have been successful so far thanks to one of the nation’s toughest defenses, which is holding opponents to 60.8 points and 38.4-percent shooting.
Last season, Purdue put on some of its best defensive performances at Conseco en route to winning the conference tournament title, beating Ohio State 65-61 in the championship game.
Saturday’s contest against Ball State (3-4) was originally scheduled to be played in West Lafayette, Ind. on Dec. 5, but was moved to be part of the Wooden Tradition, which began in 2000. The Boilermakers are 4-4 in the event.
Purdue is coming off a 73-65 win over Alabama last Saturday. Robbie Hummel scored 23 points to help the team rally from a 16-point second-half deficit and the Boilermakers held the Crimson Tide to 32.1-percent shooting in the second half and without a field goal for the final 8:45
“We really struggled in the first half, offensively, defensively, all the way around,” Hummel said. “The team has got great heart, great character, and it was able to show through tonight. It’s hard to come back on the road and win, but we did.
“Some of that is because of maturity. We’ve been here before.”
While Purdue’s defense has received a great deal of attention, Hummel provided another big offensive game by going 8 of 14 with three 3-pointers. The junior is averaging 14.6 points.
Ball State knows how tough Purdue can be to score against - and how damaging Hummel can be. The Cardinals shot 26.4 percent in a 68-39 loss on Dec. 9, 2008. Hummel overcame back problems to finish with 15 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
It was the first time a Ball State team failed to score at least 40 points since a 58-37 loss to DePauw on Jan. 12, 1952.
The Cardinals struggled even worse offensively against another in-state rival earlier this month, scoring 11 points in the first half of a 59-38 loss to then-No. 23 Butler on Dec. 2.
Ball State also is coming off an 86-81 overtime loss to Tennessee Tech last Saturday. Jauwan Scaife forced overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer after grabbing the offensive rebound on Randy Davis’ 3-point attempt. The Eagles, though, took control in the extra period.
Jarrod Jones led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Our identity is our defense and we didn’t defend today how we normally do,” coach Billy Taylor told the Cardinals’ official Web site.
Purdue has won seven of the nine all-time meetings against Ball State.