Purdue basketball suffering in Hummel’s absence

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Mike Tisdale (54) guards a Purdue player at Assembly Hall on Sunday. The Boilers were without Robbie Hummel. Erica Magda

By Jeremy Werner

While Illinois celebrated a much-needed home win on Sunday, Purdue suffered its second straight Big Ten loss with one of its top contributors sitting on the bench.

Robbie Hummel, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, has now missed consecutive games with a hairline fracture in his L5 vertebrae. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 19 games this season.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter said he was unwilling to risk Hummel’s future for a better chance at a victory on Sunday.

“It just doesn’t make sense to play him right now,” Painter said. “He’s got a bright future. He’s going to play a long time. His future is more important than an Illinois game.”

Illinois, which limited Hummel to seven points in a Dec. 30 win, prepared as if he would play. Senior guard Chester Frazier said he was ready to defend either Hummel or guard E’Twaun Moore. Frazier limited Moore, Purdue’s top scorer, to six points Sunday and said Purdue is not the same offensive threat without Hummel.

“(Hummel) gives them a versatile threat,” Frazier said. “He’s a mismatch coming off screens if a guy like Mike Tisdale or Mike Davis has to guard him. Unfortunately, he didn’t play.”

Hummel has not completed a full practice since December. Painter said the sophomore will continue to be a game-time decision for the foreseeable future. The Boilermakers are 1-3 without Hummel in the lineup.

Purdue (17-6, 6-4) now faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten race. The Boilermakers will have a shot to gain ground with two games against conference leader Michigan State (19-4, 9-2) still on the schedule.

Illini greats Freeman, Johnson honored

Illinois honored Don Freeman and Eddie Johnson at the Assembly Hall on Sunday. The two Illini greats were unable to attend the September unveiling of 30 former Illini jerseys during A Night of Legends.

Freeman played at Illinois from 1964-66 and is 12th on the school’s all-time leading scorer list with 1,449 points. He averaged 27.8 points per game, a school record, during the 1965-66 season on his way to being a first-team All-America selection.

Johnson played from 1978-81 and ranks sixth in career scoring with 1,692 points and fourth in career rebounds with 831 boards. The 1989 NBA Sixth Man of the Year played in the NBA for 17 years, scoring more than 19,000 points, and is now a TV color analyst for the Phoenix Suns. He talked to the Illinois team before the game on Sunday.

“This is where the best times in my life were,” Johnson said. “I thoroughly enjoy coming back. The only reason I haven’t come back as much as I like is because of my job.

“This is where it all started for me. This is where I started to evolve as a player. The people here are as important to me as much as anybody.”

Weber reaches 250th win

Bruce Weber may have only reached the quarter pole to Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Pat Summitt’s NCAA basketball record of 1,000 career wins, but the Illinois coach still hit a milestone victory on Sunday, notching his 250th career victory.

Now in his 11th season as a head coach, Weber has a 147-52 record (73.7 percent winning percentage) in six seasons at Illinois.

“I didn’t know that,” Weber said when asked about the milestone. “I’m just glad it’s No. 19 today for us, this year. It’s a fun season but it’s a very trying season. … It’s been a fun run so far. I hope we can finish on a positive note.”

Quick hits

Illinois scored the first points of the game against Purdue and never relinquished the lead … Illinois signee Tyler Griffey was in attendance alongside Illini verbal commits Crandall Head and Meyers Leonard, both juniors, and sophomore Tracy Abrams … A throng of Boilermaker fans made the short 100-mile trip from West Lafayette, Ind., to Champaign on Sunday.