Healthy Hummel key to Purdue’s win against Illinois

The Illinois men’s basketball team’s two regular-season victories against Purdue were certainly key triumphs. But the Illini’s pair of wins came against an incomplete Boilermakers squad.

Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Robbie Hummel was limited by injuries in the Illini’s Dec. 30 victory in West Lafayette, Ind., and did not play with a hairline fracture in his back in Illinois’ Feb. 8 home victory over the Boilermakers.

With Hummel at full strength, Purdue looked like the team the media had in mind when it chose Purdue as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten. After defeating the Illini 66-56 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday, the Boilermakers beat Ohio State 65-61 on Sunday to take the conference tournament title.

Hummel had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Illinois, a win that broke Purdue’s three-game losing streak against the Illini, dating back to the 2008 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.

“With (Hummel) at full health on their team, they’re a tough team,” Illini sophomore Mike Davis said. “They’re going to be a tough team in the tournament. I expect them to be Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight.”

While Purdue is finally healthy, the Illini were without their Hummel-stopper, Chester Frazier, because of a hand injury. Though he gives up six inches to the 6-foot-9 Hummel, Frazier limited the Boilermakers star to seven points in December.

“There’s no doubt that they’re a better team with (Frazier),” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “He’s their glue.”

Hummel scored eight-straight points to give Purdue an early 18-8 lead. The Boilermakers then ran to a 37-17 halftime lead behind 14 points first-half points from Hummel, who went 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I think when they went up 10, we got a little worried,” Illinois junior Dominique Keller said. “Instead of just playing, we got worried like we didn’t want (Hummel) to get off … We got kind of got down on ourselves, and he kept hitting shots.”

Discovering Cole

Down 50-30 with 10:24 remaining, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was looking high and low for a possible answer to the Illini’s offensive woes. In desperation, Weber subbed in the rarely used Bill Cole.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward made the most of his season-high 10 minutes of playing time, hitting 3-of-6 shots from behind the 3-point line for a career-high nine points. Cole’s contribution made the 66-56 final score look much closer than the game really was.

“I just tried to go in and do what I could do to see if maybe we could make one of those miraculous comebacks like Northwestern or something,” Cole said.

Cole has been slowed by injuries for most of his Illini career and has found playing time hard to come by, especially with the emergence of classmates Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale this season.

“I know what I’m capable of,” Cole said. “I just went in there and shot how I know how to shoot. I just wish there would have been a little more time left on the clock because I think we really could have made a game out of it.”

Letdown for McCamey

Demetri McCamey, Illinois’ leading scorer, failed to post any tallies in the score column on Saturday. It was just the second time in his career that McCamey has been held scoreless and the first time since a Dec. 8, 2007 loss to Arizona.

Purdue freshman guard Lewis Jackson, a Decatur, Ill., native, pestered McCamey through most of the game, forcing the Illini sophomore into commiting four turnovers.

“I let the team down tonight,” McCamey said. “I went 0-for-5 and really let the offense down and really didn’t get the offense going, so I’ll take the blame for that.”