Purdue was in good position to take over the No. 1 ranking and earn a top seed in the NCAA tournament. That all changed when Robbie Hummel was lost for the season.
The No. 7 Boilermakers look to rebound from a loss in their first game without Hummel when they host lowly Indiana on Wednesday night.Purdue (24-4, 12-4 Big Ten) ran off 10 straight wins and rose to third in last week's AP poll. The Boilermakers, though, were then stunned by the news that Hummel, their second-leading scorer and rebounder, would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.Purdue struggled badly in its first game without Hummel, falling 53-44 to then-No. 14 Michigan State in a key conference matchup. The Boilermakers posted their lowest scoring output of the season and shot 30 percent from the field.Hummel's absence was also felt on the boards, as the Spartans held a 46-20 rebounding advantage."As soon as Rob went down, our backs went up against the wall," said guard Chris Kramer, who had 11 points and five turnovers. "We can't expect him to be there anymore. We still control our own destiny."While earning a top seed in the NCAAs may no longer be possible, Purdue is locked in a tight race with sixth-ranked Ohio State, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. All four teams have secured first-round byes for the conference tournament.The Boilermakers conclude the season at Penn State on Saturday, and winning their last two games would give them at least a share of the conference title.For that to happen, they will likely need better performances from guard E'Twaun Moore and center JaJuan Johnson. The duo shot 7 of 27 and scored 23 points against the Spartans.Moore leads Purdue with 16.8 points per game, while Johnson is third at 14.7."It's no secret we go through three guys," coach Matt Painter said of Moore, Johnson and Hummel. "A lot of games this year, two of those three guys would score well offensively and allow that other guy to have an off night. Now, it's a little bit different. Now, you have that traditional one-two punch and both of those guys have to be productive in the scoring column."Johnson did his part against Indiana (9-19, 3-13) on Feb. 4, matching Hummel's 21 points and adding nine rebounds in a 78-75 win. Moore, though, shot 5 of 16 and scored 14 points.Moore keyed the Boilermakers' victory in the last home meeting with the Hoosiers, scoring 26 points in an 81-67 victory Feb. 21, 2009.Indiana has not played much better than that recently, losing 10 in a row by an average of 16.7 points. The Hoosiers have not dropped 11 straight since Dec. 13, 2008-Jan. 31, 2009.They got closer to that dubious mark by committing 20 turnovers in a 73-57 loss at Iowa on Sunday."I am going to fight and I am going to look for people to fight with me," coach Tom Crean said. "That is how the program is going to be built."Verdell Jones III is looking to build on his 22-point performance from Sunday, while cutting down on his five turnovers. The sophomore guard had 22 points against Purdue last month and turned the ball over only once.Indiana has lost 15 in a row to Top 25 teams since beating then-No. 14 Purdue 77-68 on Feb. 19, 2008.