Even with the absence of preseason All-Big Ten selection of forward Robbie Hummel, Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s keys to Sunday’s game against MSU remain the same.
“You have to keep them off the glass,” Painter said in a teleconference Friday. “You have to rebound the basketball, keep them out of transition. If you can do those things, you have a chance to win. If you can’t do those things, you don’t have a chance to win. That’s the same statement I made when we went to East Lansing.”
Hummel, a junior from Valparaiso, Ind., suffered a tear to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the No. 3 Boilermakers’ 59-58 win at Minnesota on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season. Hummel is averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for first-place Purdue (24-3 overall, 12-3 Big Ten). The No. 14 Spartans (21-7, 11-4) travel to West Lafayette, Ind., on Sunday to try to find their way back in first place for a share of the conference title.
“From a coaching standpoint, this happens, whether it’s injuries or foul trouble,” Painter said. “Things happen and you have to be able to deal with adversity. It’s an unbelievable challenge for our team to deal with this adversity to make improvements and get stronger.”
It’s Hummel’s second serious injury in the past two seasons, as he missed four games and the Boilermakers went 1-3 during that stretch.
“The thing last year, for us, that was different with Rob’s injury … was the fact that we didn’t know if he was going to play or not going into games,” Painter said. “Knowing how to prepare with him and how to prepare without him are two very different things.”
It’s been a bizarre year in the Big Ten in terms of serious injuries to key players. Conference front-runners Purdue (Hummel), MSU (junior guard Kalin Lucas), Ohio State (forward Evan Turner), Wisconsin (forward Jon Leuer) and Northwestern (forward Kevin Coble) have all had top, veteran players miss extended periods of time. In each instance, the value of those players was significant in terms of wins and losses.
Friday, Painter used Leuer’s value to Wisconsin as an example.
“There’s no question Wisconsin was a better basketball team with Jon Leuer,” Painter said. “But they were still able to beat good people without him. Hopefully, we can do some things similar to that.”
Sunday, the Spartans will attempt to avenge Purdue’s 76-64 beatdown on Feb. 9 in East Lansing. Though Hummel was relatively quiet (15 points, five rebounds), his presence as the team’s glue guy was noticeable as forward JaJuan Johnson and guard E’Twaun Moore torched the Spartans for 44 combined points.
Painter said Keaton Grant, a senior guard who has seen most of his contribution off the bench this year and hit the game-winning shot against Minnesota, likely will be a candidate to fill much of Hummel’s role.
“We’ll see how things go here in practice,” Painter said. “He’s really played his best basketball these past three games, even past that. Stepping up and making key plays in tough situations. The other night against Minnesota, he was great.”
Purdue, known to have one of the best trios in the nation with Johnson, Hummel and Moore, will receive a test from the deep Spartans, who will look to run in transition. MSU head coach Tom Izzo said he was frustrated with the Spartans’ lack of transition basketball in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State but vowed the Spartans would be looking to attack on the break on Sunday.
The Spartans had just four fast-break points in their first meeting against the Boilermakers.
Sunday’s tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. on CBS.