WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP)—Shortly after Purdue escaped its final non-conference test against Valparaiso, several players stood around Keady Court signing autographs.
The longest line was in front of Bobby Riddell, a senior who hasn’t even played in four games this season.
With junior Chris Kramer sidelined by a sprained left foot, Riddell filled in admirably. The 5-foot-9 reserve guard from nearby Lafayette scored nine points in 21 minutes and provided a much-needed boost for No. 10 Purdue in a 59-45 victory Sunday.
“He’s really big for our team,” sophomore forward Robbie Hummel said. “Early in the season, he wasn’t getting much playing time, but he’s come back to make big shots and played good defense. He’s an important part of our team.”
E’Twaun Moore scored 14 points, JaJuan Johnson had 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and Hummel had nine points and 14 rebounds for the Boilermakers (11-2).
But Riddell was the player who got the loudest cheers of the day with his hustle and timely shooting. The former walk-on made three of four 3-pointers, had two assists without a turnover and pestered Valparaiso’s guards throughout the game.
“He played great defense,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He just had more energy than anyone on the court. Bob’s hungry. He steps up when his name is called.”
Riddell sees that as part of his job description.
“I’m a senior now,” Riddell said. “I just try to come every day and bring leadership. I might not get a lot of minutes, but I’ll play hard.”
It was Purdue’s sixth consecutive victory heading into its Big Ten opener Tuesday against Illinois.
Urule Igbavboa and Jake Diebler each scored 13 points for Valparaiso (3-9), which has lost five in a row.
Diebler played with a mask after he broke his nose against Central Florida last Monday. He had been averaging seven points per game.
“Jake hadn’t practiced since he broke his nose last game,” Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. “We might not ever let him practice again.”
The Boilermakers led by two at halftime, but held the Crusaders to 28 percent shooting after the break. Valparaiso made just one field goal in the final seven minutes of the game.
The Boilermakers hit six of 14 3-pointers in the second half to expand the lead and improve to 13-1 against the Crusaders.
Purdue made its first shot of the game, but missed its next eight to fall behind 6-2. The Boilermakers went nearly five minutes without a field goal during that stretch.
Purdue trailed 23-21 late in the first half before Riddell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Boilermakers a 27-23 advantage with 2:07 left. Purdue led 27-25 at halftime, despite shooting 32 percent from the field and 3-for-9 from the free-throw line.
Drew liked the way his team played early.
“I really enjoyed the first half,” he said. “We really played well. Then, in the second half, they … got some momentum.”
After Keaton Grant and Moore made 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half, Riddell made his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Boilermakers a 36-29 lead with 16:33 to play. Riddell’s shot was part of a 14-6 run at the start of the second half that put Purdue up 41-31.
Riddell, who entered the game averaging 1.6 points per game, said he did what was needed.
“Normally, Coach just tells me to go in, play defense, be solid,” Riddell said. “But when you’ve got open looks, and other guys’ shots weren’t falling, you’ve got to step up and be confident.”
Valparaiso cut its deficit to 41-35 on baskets by Diebler and Michael Rogers, but Hummel came back with a 3-pointer for the Boilermakers, and Purdue led by at least nine points the rest of the way.
It wasn’t an ideal performance for Purdue, but Painter said his team needs to be able to win if misses a lot of shots.
“We got shots, they just didn’t fall and we started to press,” he said. “We were forcing things. Fortunately, our defense kept us in the game. I feel like our defense and Riddell’s play were really the two keys to the game.”