Purdue gets back on track with win

Purdue+forward+JaJuan+Johnson%2C+left%2C+shoots+over+Iowa+center+David+Palmer+in+the+second+half+of+a+game+in+West+Lafayette%2C+Ind.%2C+Sunday.+Purdue+defeated+Iowa+75-53.+Michael+Conroy%2C+The+Associated+Press%0A

AP

Purdue forward JaJuan Johnson, left, shoots over Iowa center David Palmer in the second half of a game in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday. Purdue defeated Iowa 75-53. Michael Conroy, The Associated Press

By Cliff Brunt

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue basketball got back on track in time for perhaps its most difficult stretch of the season.

Purdue lost its first two Big Ten games while facing injuries to key players Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer. The 18th-ranked Boilermakers have since won three in a row, but they will play four of their next five on the road, starting Thursday at No. 21 Minnesota.

“We’ve had some tough games, and obviously, trying to get everybody healthy, trying to get better in practice without everybody practicing is difficult because you don’t have all your pieces,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’ve done a good job the last three games of being able to get wins and make the plays late in the game necessary.”

Hummel has averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds since returning from a back injury that kept him out of a loss to Penn State, and the Boilermakers (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) have won all three games. The conference’s preseason player of the year is the team’s No. 2 scorer.

Kramer, who also missed the Penn State game, has provided his usual hustle and defensive dominance since he returned from his sprained left foot.

The Boilermakers played especially well in Sunday’s 75-53 win over Iowa, when Purdue shot 49 percent and made 10-of-15 3-pointers. Painter believes the team will need similar performances to be successful during the upcoming five games.

“Every game is going to be tough, no matter who you’re playing and where you’re playing,” Painter said.

The Boilermakers follow their game at Minnesota with a trip to Wisconsin, then they will return home to play Michigan before playing at Ohio State and No. 25 Illinois.

First, they must deal with a rejuvenated Minnesota squad. The Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) were picked to finish fifth in the preseason media poll, but are in second place.

Purdue hopes live up to their billing as conference favorites.