Gophers faces Purdue in a Must-Win Situation
After beginning Big Ten Conference play 2-3, fourth-ranked Purdue will take a nine-game winning streak and the Big Ten lead into Wednesday night's game at Minnesota.
Including Ohio State's victory on Sunday at Michigan State, Purdue is 11-3 in league action, and the Buckeyes and Spartans are 11-4. The Boilermakers have won at Ohio State and at Michigan State.
Purdue, now 4-0 against Top 10 opposition at the time the games were played, has won four consecutive conference road games -- at Illinois, at Indiana, at Michigan State and at Ohio State.
It's the first time since Minnesota in 1977 that a Big Ten team has won in Champaign, Bloomington, East Lansing and Columbus during the same season.
Former NBA great Kevin McHale was a member of that 1977 Minnesota team.
Purdue is seeking its first Big Ten regular-season championship since 1996. The Boilermakers won the 2009 Big Ten tournament.
--Averaging only 5.8 points through Purdue's first 24 games, senior guard Keaton Grant scored a season-high-tying 13 points in a Feb. 17 victory at No. 9 Ohio State, then came back with 15 on Feb. 20 in a 75-65 victory against Illinois in Mackey Arena. Grant was Purdue's 2008 MVP but has struggled with his shooting the past two seasons after undergoing knee surgery.
--Junior forward Robbie Hummel tied the school single-game free throw percentage record -- at least 10 attempts -- by going 12 of 12 on Feb. 20 against Illinois. Rick Mount (15 of 15), Glenn Robinson (14 of 14) and Brian Cardinal (12 of 12) also shot 1.000 percent from the line in one game.
ON THE SPOT: During its nine-game winning streak, Purdue has outrebounded seven opponents and tied another. When the Boilermakers lost three in a row from Jan. 9 through Jan. 16, they were outrebounded each time.
Purdue's ability -- or inability -- to rebound in its final four regular-season games (at Minnesota, vs. Michigan State, vs. Indiana and at Penn State) likely will determine if the Boilermakers win their first Big Ten crown in 14 years.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm proud of our guys for the way they've positioned themselves after our 2-3 Big Ten start. But we can't afford to get away from the things that got us here -- defense and rebounding. Those are the things we can control each night." -- Purdue coach Matt Painter.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: While its 13-1 record in Mackey Arena certainly is impressive, Purdue's 10-2 mark in road/neutral site games is at the core of its push to be considered for an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed.
The Boilermakers are 5-2 in Big Ten road games, won at Alabama, beat Tennessee, St. Joseph's (Pa.) and South Dakota State in the Virgin Islands-based Paradise Jam and defeated Ball State in Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters -- F Robbie Hummel, C JaJuan Johnson, G Kelsey Barlow, G Chris Kramer, G E'Twaun Moore. Keys subs -- G Keaton Grant, G Lewis Jackson, F/C Patrick Bade, G John Hart.
Purdue 63, Iowa 40
Purdue 60, Ohio State 57
Purdue 75, Illinois 65
at Minnesota, Wednesday, Feb. 24
vs. Michigan State, Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Indiana, Wednesday, March 3
at Penn State, Saturday, March 6
IN FOCUS: The Boilermakers head to Minnesota, a team Purdue defeated 79-60 on Jan. 5, for a crucial Wednesday night game in Williams Arena, where Matt Painter's team won last season.
The Golden Gophers recently beat Wisconsin in Minneapolis and have the size to make the interior difficult for 6-10 junior center JaJuan Johnson.
Michigan State's hope for a Big Ten title comes down to a home game against Purdue. It's a game many circled in the preseason as a critical one in deciding both the Big Ten title and potentially impacting whether a team from the conference will have a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
--Redshirt freshman guard John Hart has scored 45 total points this season, including 20 in two victories against Illinois. Hart had 14 on Jan. 19 in Champaign and six on Feb. 20 in West Lafayette.
--Including the 12 in a row he made against Illinois on Feb. 27, Hummel is shooting 90.2 percent from the free throw line (110 of 122).
--Hummel and Moore share the team lead for 3-pointers made with 40 each. Purdue has made 145 shots from beyond the arc.
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