Adversity is often good for a team in the long run, but Purdue might be facing a little more of it than it would like.
The 13th-ranked Boilermakers look to snap a three-game losing streak Tuesday night when they face an Illinois team coming off its first Big Ten defeat.
Purdue (14-3, 2-3) won its first 14 games and was ranked as high as fourth. The Boilermakers, though, have lost three in a row for the first time since a five-game skid in 2006 at the end of coach Matt Painter’s first season.
The slide dropped Purdue seven spots in this week’s poll.
“We definitely got to have a sense or urgency,” Purdue leading scorer E’Twaun Moore said. “We got to, that’s three in a row. … We’ve faced adversity before, lost a couple of games in a row. We just came back hard, ready to fight. That’s what we got to do.”
After losing 72-64 at Northwestern on Saturday, the Boilermakers will try to hand the Illini (12-6, 4-1) their first loss in 11 home games this season. Illinois is coming off its first Big Ten defeat, 73-63 to then-No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday.
The Illini rank second in the Big Ten in rebounding at 38.1 boards a contest. Poor play in the paint, meanwhile, has contributed to Purdue’s skid.
The Boilermakers were beaten on the glass in all five Big Ten games, getting outrebounded by an average of 8.2 in those contests. The Wildcats dominated them 42-23 on the boards.
Purdue was hurt by the foul problems of 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson, who finished with two rebounds and five fouls in 18 minutes. He is averaging 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
Robbie Hummel had 20 points and a team-high six rebounds for the Boilermakers. He headed to the locker room briefly after apparently being hit by an elbow, but returned with 3:47 to go in the first half.
The junior forward was already playing with a dislocated left pinkie, which he suffered late in Purdue’s 70-66 loss to Ohio State last Tuesday night. He had a career-high 35 points in that contest and is averaging 16.6 this season.
Hummel was outstanding against Illinois in last season’s Big Ten tournament semifinals, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds as Purdue won 66-56 on March 14. The Boilermakers, losers of two straight to the Illini, lead the series 89-84.
Despite Hummel’s injury, he will be heavily involved in trying to end Purdue’s struggles.
“We’re having some difficulties here. Losing three in a row is something we haven’t done since we’ve been here,” Hummel said. “We’re going to see how tough we are.”
The 6-8 Hummel will have to contend with Illinois’ Mike Tisdale down low. The 7-1 junior is averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Tisdale, though, was held to two points by Michigan State after averaging 20.3 in the first four Big Ten games. The Illini started 4-0 in conference play for the first time since 2005.
“We’re playing the best in this stretch in the league to see if we’re ready for it,” coach Bruce Weber said. “We go home to play a team that plays just as hard and is probably more physical.”