Robbie Hummel’s ‘welcome back’ moment secures Purdue victory

If anyone deserved to deliver one of college basketball's most poignant early feel-good moments, it was Purdue's Robbie Hummel.

And, now, consider it delivered.

Hummel, whose last two years at Purdue were spent rehabbing from ACL tears, canned a game-winning 3-pointer for the Boilermakers with 22 seconds remaining in a wild 91-90 victory over Iona on Thursday afternoon at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic.

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 19.5 points in Purdue's first two games of the season — victories over Northern Illinois and High Point. But in a neutral site contest against one of this year's most explosive, dangerous teams from the mid-major ranks, Hummel's late three provided a true 'welcome back' moment.

Hummel's bucket polished off a 24-point, 9-rebound performance. He was 10-of-21 from the floor and 4-of-9 from deep.

His injuries woes began as a sophomore during the 2008-09, when he was limited down the stretch run by back issues that forced him to wear a brace after missing five games. He then first tore the ACL in his right knee late in his junior season. Hummel tore it again during one of the team's first practices last October. He then opted to take a redshirt and return to West Lafayette in hopes of toughing out a delayed senior season. {YSP:MORE}

Thursday's game-winner masked a performance from Purdue that was far from pretty, and showed that Matt Painter's squad has plenty of holes to still patch following the losses of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore to graduation.

Iona led for the better part of the first half, but Purdue junior guard Kelsey Barlow knocked down a half-court heave at the buzzer, tying the game 50-50 at the break.

Purdue shot out of the locker room on a 7-0 run, but the Gaels stormed back and made things tense in the final minute, thanks in large part to the Boilermakers' woeful second half free throw shooting. Just before Hummel hit the three, Arizona transfer Momo Jones put Iona ahead by pulling up at the free throw line in transition and burying a gutsy jumper.

But Purdue's resident Old Man on Campus was able to snatch away what would have been a huge, signature non-conference win on for the Gaels, whose hopes of building up a strong résumé before MAAC play begins took a major hit.

On the other side, Purdue now sets itself up for a potentially big stretch in Puerto Rico. It's the start of a six games in 12 days run for the Boilermakers, who on Friday will meet Temple in the semifinals.

The huge shot from one of college basketball's true good guys gave anyone aware of his story a reason to smile. It also proved to any lingering doubters that Hummel is still physically capable of being Purdue's rock after his long, painful layoff.

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