No. 3 Boilers escape with injured Hummel
Robbie Hummel glumly watched Purdue play without him in the second half, his palm barely keeping his chin up with crutches beside him on the bench.
Keaton Grant and the rest of the Boilermakers gave their hurting star a finish to smile about, their No. 3 national ranking a bit shaky but first place in the Big Ten still in hand.
Grant's jumper with 7.7 seconds left lifted Purdue past Minnesota 59-58 on Wednesday night, helping the Boilermakers survive Hummel's first-half knee injury and a scoreless stretch of more than 10 minutes that bridged the intermission.
"You're not supposed to think about it. You're supposed to keep going on," said E'Twaun Moore, another part of Purdue's standout trio who wasn't as effective. "But when one of your best players goes down, you definitely be concerned. Hopefully, he'll be all right and he'll come back.''
JaJaun Johnson had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Boilermakers (24-3, 12-3), who won their 10th straight and have a one-game lead on Michigan State, which plays at Purdue on Sunday. Ohio State is right between them in the conference race.
"It's hard to adjust on the fly, especially when a player means so much to your team, but I thought it was kind of a gut check," Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said, adding: "It showed a lot of character."
Moore and Hummel each had 11 points for the Boilermakers, who ruined a career-best game by Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III and stuck the Gophers (16-11, 7-8) with their third one-point loss this season. The Spartans beat them here in eerily similar fashion last month, and another currently ranked team, Texas A&M, nipped them in November.
Eight of Minnesota's losses are by eight points or less, including a pair of three-point overtime defeats on the road.
"We see we got the ingredients to beat 'em. We just got to finish out," said Damian Johnson, whose off-balance tip-in of Devoe Joseph's miss at the buzzer came a split-second late.
Grant has three straight double-digit scoring games off the bench after putting up only three in his first 24 games. After he pulled up for the go-ahead jumper, the Gophers brought the ball up and coach Tubby Smith took timeout — later blaming himself for not calling it a second or two sooner.
Joseph dribbled to the corner and faked for an open jumper, but it bounced off the rim.
"We feel that we're talented enough to play with anyone," Smith said. "A play here, a play there."
Sampson had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Gophers, and a deafening crowd backed an active Minnesota zone defense with Sampson and fellow big man Colton Iverson clogging the lane together.
The Gophers led by as many as nine in the second half, with the Boilermakers unable to get any shots to fall. Moore, shooting better than 50 percent in conference play this season but 3 for 12 in this game, hit the side of the backboard on one 3-point attempt in the second half.
It wasn't until Johnson put in a couple of turnarounds in the lane to cut the lead to 49-48 with 3:55 left, putting the Boilermakers back in position to win and set up the tense final stretch.
After Moore's layup gave Purdue the lead again, Lawrence Westbrook hit a leaner with 25 seconds left to put the Gophers back in front. Grant responded with his pull-up jumper, skipping back in celebration, and Minnesota called timeout to set up the last try.
Purdue marked the highest-ranked foe the Gophers have faced in three years — since back-to-back losses to No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State here at "The Barn" in February 2007.
Thanks to Sampson, they nearly scored their first win here against a top-five team since beating Indiana in 1992.
Purdue led 26-14, when the game — and perhaps the season — changed with one misstep. Hummel, who was just getting his stroke back after going a combined 8 for 26 from the field in the previous three games, drove to the lane and felt his right leg give slightly as he tried to plant with 7:11 left in the half.
He fell to the floor in pain, clutching his knee, and couldn't put weight on his leg as he was helped off.
"We had to keep fighting," Grant said.
The Gophers crept closer and made their move right after halftime, with the 6-foot-11 sophomore namesake of the former NBA standout emerging with a so-far-unseen performance that got the home crowd screaming and had the Boilermakers unable to stop him.
Setting up soft hook shots with a slow, deliberate dribble, Sampson even stepped out and sank his first career 3-pointer that cut Purdue's lead 30-29. He scored nine straight and led Minnesota on an 18-0 run, ending finally when John Hart's 3-pointer went in from the wing to pull Purdue within 36-33.
"Personally, it was a pretty tough one to take," Sampson said.