INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Any questions about Purdue’s stagnant offense were emphatically answered by halftime against Penn State.
The 24th-ranked Boilermakers shot 63 percent in the first half of a 79-65 win over the Nittany Lions on Friday night in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
The Boilermakers had lost three of four coming into the tournament, and their offense lacked rhythm in a loss to Michigan State in their regular-season finale.
“This definitely helps after we were struggling with our shooting,” Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. “This game was a blast. It seemed like every shot we threw up was going in.”
Robbie Hummel led Purdue with 20 points. He missed both regular season games against the Nittany Lions with a hairline fracture in his lower back, but made up for it by making 8 of 12 shots and grabbing five rebounds on Friday.
“I think he is back to 100 percent,” Kramer said. “The way he’s moving out there, going to get rebounds and the elevation he has on his jumpers … I feel like Rob’s back to 100 percent.”
Keaton Grant made his first five 3-pointers and scored 15 points, and E’Twaun Moore added 15 points and six assists for Purdue (23-9), which played with all-conference center JaJuan Johnson in foul trouble for most of the game.
It was Purdue’s first tournament win at Conseco Fieldhouse, and just its second tournament win overall since 2002.
Jamelle Cornley scored 20 points for Penn State (22-11), which would have given its NCAA tournament resume a major boost with a win. Talor Battle, the conference’s leading scorer, finished with 15 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
The Boilermakers advanced to play Illinois, a 60-50 winner over Michigan, in Saturday’s semifinals. Purdue lost to Illinois in the quarterfinals last season as a No. 2 seed.
Ohio State will play No. 7 Michigan State in the other semifinal.
Purdue shot 56 percent from the field overall and committed just five turnovers.
“I thought our guys did a good job, just jumping on them from the opening tip and just staying with it and really never letting them get started in terms of getting a lead or putting a stretch together where it had us backpedaling or getting behind,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Hummel scored Purdue’s first five points on a 3-pointer, then a steal and dunk. After Moore hit a 3-pointer, Kramer, a 6-foot-3 guard, threw down a monster tomahawk dunk over 6-9, 245-pound Andrew Jones to give the Boilermakers a 10-2 lead.
“That’s one of the best dunks I’ve seen,” Hummel said.
Purdue’s Nemanja Calasan hit back-to-back 3s to make it 19-5 just over six minutes into the game.
Purdue never cooled off. The Boilermakers made eight of 12 3-pointers in the first half and led 51-35 at the break in their most productive opening 20 minutes of the season.
“I think when you see us play together and be unselfish and share the basketball, we can score the ball like we did today, especially in the first half,” Painter said.”
The Nittany Lions shot 46 percent in the first half, yet were getting blown out.
“We just didn’t have any answers for them defensively, and I thought they just played well,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “We didn’t play bad. I just thought they played really, really well.”
Penn State cut the lead to 56-44 early in the second half before Purdue went on a 10-0 run that included two 3-pointers by Hummel to put the game out of reach.
“We had little things offensively,” Penn State’s Stanley Pringle said. “But defensively, they played real tough. They forced us to respond. We did, but the lead was too big.”
Penn State closed the game on an 8-0 run to make the score more respectable. Now, the Lions hope they didn’t lose the regard of the selection committee.
“You never know until selection Sunday,” Penn State’s David Jackson said. “I hope our resume is good enough. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams and I feel if we get in, we can play well and make some noise. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed and hope we get in. If we do, we’re going to play hard, play well and hopefully get some wins.”