Sunday, February 28, 2010
Boilers can't rebound from loss of Hummel
By Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- In the raucous visitors' locker room at Mackey Arena, one voice boomed above the rest.
Draymond Green and the Spartans beat a Purdue team that was without star Robbie Hummel.
"We outrebounded them by 26! 26!"
It didn't take long to find the source.
"Yeah, that was me," Michigan State forward Draymond Green said after his team's 53-44 win. "That's something that we really pride ourselves on, and we did a great job of it tonight."
There was little doubt No. 3 Purdue would miss star forward Robbie Hummel in Sunday's clash with No. 14 Michigan State. The unknowns: How much would Hummel's absence sting and in what specific areas?
After all, Hummel helped Purdue in so many ways: scoring (15.7 ppg, 2nd on team); rebounding (6.9 rpg, 2nd on team); assists (56, 2nd on team); steals (29, 3rd on team); free-throw shooting (90.2 percent, 1st on team).
The first phase of LWH (Life Without Hummel) left no mystery about where the star was missed the most.
Michigan State outrebounded Purdue 46-20. That's a difference of 26, as Green made sure anyone within earshot of Michigan State's locker room found out. The Spartans notched their first win against a ranked opponent since Jan. 6 and stayed alive in the Big Ten race.
"The game was lost for us on the glass," Boilers coach Matt Painter said after his team's 10-game win streak ended. "We had an effort, but you can't say, when someone outrebounds you by 26, we had a great effort."
Purdue's effort certainly revealed itself on the defensive end, as it forced 23 Michigan State turnovers, eight from reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas. But the Boilers couldn't convert defense into offense -- they shot just 30 percent for the game and had major cold spells to open each half -- and gave Michigan State way too many extra chances on the offensive end.
The Spartans had 16 offensive rebounds, four fewer than Purdue's game total.
"To think that our team outrebounded them the first time after watching that," Painter said, "it's a little amazing."
Purdue held a 31-30 edge in rebounds Feb. 9 in a win at the Breslin Center. Hummel had five boards and 15 points that night.
A sequence in the final minutes encapsulated how things have changed for Painter's team. Trailing 48-44, the Boilers had 6-3 guard Chris Kramer defend the 6-6, 235-pound Green. Kramer is one of the nation's best defenders and set the team's all-time steals record Sunday. But the size disadvantage proved too much, as Green missed a shot, missed a tip but made the second tip.
As the crowd deflated, Hummel watched from the end of Purdue's bench, crutches at his side.
"I'm guarding the other team's 4-man," Kramer said. "It's nothing [I haven't] done before."
Hummel could do nothing but watch as No. 3 Purdue lost to No. 14 Michigan State.
Sure, in spurts. But Hummel's injury leaves Purdue with only one major contributor in the post, forward JaJuan Johnson, who struggled Sunday.
And when a team has multiple threats down low, like Michigan State has with Green (12 points, 11 rebounds), Raymar Morgan (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Derrick Nix (7 points), mismatches are inevitable.
"You can't expect [Hummel] to be there any more," Kramer said. "That's just part of it. We still did everything the same way as we normally do. Sure, Rob's another threat out there for us and can do a lot of thing, but our team's got to keep coming.
"This wasn't us tonight."
The NCAA tournament selection committee might not be convinced, especially after Sunday.
For the last six weeks, "us" looked like a bona fide Final Four contender. Purdue blitzed through the Big Ten and appeared poised to make the short trip down I-65 to Lucas Oil Stadium.
But one unfortunate step Wednesday night at Minnesota changed everything.
"Don't kid yourself," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "They missed him, and missed him a lot."
One of the many signs displayed Sunday in Purdue's spirited student section read, "Same Goals." Purdue can still win the Big Ten. It still could make a run in March.
But if the on-court product seen Sunday doesn't improve, Purdue will see its NCAA tournament seed slip and its promising season end much earlier than expected.
"As soon as Rob went down, our backs went to the wall," Kramer said. "It just comes down to us, coming together, correcting everything we did wrong today and just keep on moving forward.
"We can prove everybody wrong by winning the basketball games. There's no other way to do it."