Gophers keep fadingMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Purdue’s 20-point loss at Penn State earlier this week was so ugly it prompted coach Matt Painter to describe his team’s attitude after winning the first two Big Ten games as “fat and sassy.”
By: Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Purdue’s 20-point loss at Penn State earlier this week was so ugly it prompted coach Matt Painter to describe his team’s attitude after winning the first two Big Ten games as “fat and sassy.”
Painter wasn’t trying to be mean — only to motivate.
His seniors clearly heard the message, and the Boilermakers took out their frustration Minnesota.
Lewis Jackson had 16 of his 20 points in the second half, D.J. Byrd sank all five of his 3-point attempts in the first half and Robbie Hummel returned to the scene of his first devastating injury to enjoy an inspired victory by Purdue, 79-66 over the Gophers on Sunday night.
Jackson said he wasn’t offended by his coach’s salty critique.
“I took it to heart with no problem. I mean, he knows how me and Rob are wired,” said Jackson, who went 8 for 11 from the floor.
Rodney Williams led Minnesota with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and reserve Chip Armelin finished with 12 points.
Freshman Joe Coleman, starting for the first time in place of struggling sophomore Austin Hollins, scored all of his career-high 14 points in the second half.
Coleman’s layup with 4:22 left gave the Gophers some hope and brought them within 68-61 after being down by as many as 18, but all those early swishes from behind the arc by the Boilermakers weren’t going away.
“I don’t know that I’ve coached against a team that was any hotter than Purdue was today,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.
Hummel had 13 points and seven rebounds, nearly two years after he cut across the Williams Arena lane to catch a pass and crumpled to the floor when his right knee buckled, forcing reconstructive surgery and perhaps keeping Purdue from the Final Four.
“I really wasn’t too worried about it. It was a fluke. But I’m not going to lie: I’m not too upset that I don’t have to come back here and play again,” Hummel said.
Hummel hurt his left knee months later and missed all of last season, but with a black-and-gold brace serving as a constant reminder of his remarkable comeback from two anterior cruciate ligament tears he’s back as one of the Big Ten’s best inside players.
“I think that’s the best present we could give Rob, just coming back here and getting a victory,” Painter said.
Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe would’ve been one of Hummel’s peers, but he’s out with the same injury, and the Gophers are missing him badly. This is their worst start in conference play since losing their first six games in 2005-06 under coach Dan Monson.
“Trevor was so quick to be able to rotate over and block shots from everywhere around the basket. He just had that athleticism that you just can’t duplicate,” Smith said.
Minnesota’s 3-point defense is last in the conference, so Purdue’s outside shooting success was no surprise. But for a team that thrives on deflecting passes for fast breaks and blocking shots underneath the Gophers were totally off track. They had only one steal in the first half.
Preferring a smaller, quicker lineup, Smith gave struggling 6-foot-11 senior Ralph Sampson III only 11 minutes. With another missing set of long arms, the Gophers let Jackson drive to the basket time after time for uncontested layup.
“That’s our problem. We focus on one thing, and then forget on another,” Coleman said.
The Gophers have lost 14 of their last 15 Big Ten games.
Ryne Smith, who went 1 for 7 from 3-point range at Penn State, buried his first two attempts from behind the arc for Purdue’s first two baskets. Byrd came off the bench and swished three 3-pointers in a 2-minute span, one while falling down. He hit two more at the end of the first half during a 14-2 spurt by the Boilermakers.
Hummel offered his usual hustle, muscle and timely outside shooting, helping the Boilermakers pack the paint on defense and fluster the Gophers into more half-court stagnancy, with outside jumpers often their only option.
They actually knocked down their share of those in the first half, going 13 for 23 from the field, but after falling behind 45-30 on Hummel’s layup, the Minnesota crowd was as quiet as it’s been since the exhibition games and the Gophers players looked as defeated and discouraged as they’ve been all season.
“Everybody saw how last year ended, and it’s kind of looking like it’s going to go down that same road this year,” Williams said. “But we’ve got a tough group of guys in the locker room, so we all know that there’s a lot of basketball left to play. We’re going to fight every game.”