Siena will face a team that is wounded, but still dangerous, on Friday.
The Purdue Boilermakers’ Robbie Hummel was named one of 24 finalists for the John Wooden Award as college basketball’s best player on Monday, but he hasn’t seen any action since tearing his ACL at Minnesota on Feb. 24, and he won’t be on the court when 13th-seeded Siena plays No. 4 Purdue in the first round of the South Region of the NCAA tournament.
The Boilermakers (27-5) still present a formidable obstacle to the Saints’ bid to advance to the second round for the third year in a row.
Purdue was ranked No. 3 in the country just three weeks ago, when Hummel went down, and since has appeared to be vulnerable, no more so than in the Boilermakers’ last game, a 69-42 clunker in the Big Ten semifinals against Minnesota, a team Purdue beat twice during the regular season.
Leading scorer E’Twaun Moore, a 6-foot-4, 184-pound guard from East Chicago, Ind., was 1-for-14 from the field for two points in 21 minutes in that game.
The Boilermakers are much more than a one-man team, though, and seem eager to prove that when the NCAA tournament starts. Siena and Purdue will tip off at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time in Spokane, Wash.
“We’re 27-5, so we’ve had a great season,” senior guard Chris Kramer said after the Minnesota loss. “We’ve just got to come out and just stay together. Everybody is doubting us. The only people that really believe in our team are the people in our locker room.”
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “You have to play. We’re 27-5. We’ve had a great season. We’ve just got to regroup, come out and play better and play smarter.
“We need to burn that tape, forget about it, because we had 27 great wins this year, and we need to play to our strengths.”
Purdue, a Sweet 16 team last year, doesn’t appear to be a particularly strong three-point shooting team, especially with Hummel out, but Moore is at .358 from behind the arc, and the Boilermakers have a decided edge over their opponents in blocked shots (143-83) and steals (221-163).
Kramer is a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year (2008, 2010) and has made the conference all-defensive team four years in a row.
“They’re a very good team, and will definitely bring it on every possession,” Siena junior center Ryan Rossiter said. “I think they’re a very sound defensive team, so we’ll have to play smart and not turn the ball over. We can’t beat ourselves.”
Moore is averaging 16.6 points per game, and JaJuan Johnson, a 6-10, 215-pound center from Indianapolis, is averaging 15.2 points and leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game.
Losing Hummel, a two-time Wooden finalist, took a player who was averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds out of the lineup.
“Injuries are part of the game, and you’ve got to take it in stride,” Painter said. “When other teams have injuries and we beat them, we don’t have any sympathy for them, so we know people aren’t going to have sympathy for us.
“We’re 4-2 without Rob. I think we’re a good basketball team. Obviously, we’re not better at this point than when Rob Hummel was playing. I think that is a pretty profound statement. We’ve got to go out and play and not make excuses and figure out a way — our guys figured a way to win the Big Ten without him.”
“They’ve had an opportunity to regroup without him,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Others have had to take on expanded roles. I think what we’ll see is a team that’s ready to play with the players they have.”
Purdue, 14-4 in the Big Ten, won its first 14 games before losing three straight to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Northwestern.
The Boilermakers rattled off 10 straight wins before losing to Michigan State, which will join Siena and Purdue in Spokane as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest.
Purdue and Siena share one common opponent, Saint Joseph’s.
The Boilermakers beat Saint Joe’s on Nov. 22, 85-60, in an early-season tournament in the Virgin Islands, and the Saints (27-6) beat the Hawks, 92-75, on Dec. 29 at home.
The Siena-Purdue winner will face the Texas A&M-Utah State winner on Sunday.
The Saints have proven themselves to be capable of beating teams from the big conferences.
Siena defeated Ohio State (2009) and Vanderbilt (2008) in the NCAAs.
“It’s important, especially against a powerhouse team like Purdue, to go in there confident and not rattle, because it’s definitely going to be a close game,” Siena senior point guard Ronald Moore said. “Experience is a key in this situation.
“They’re a very good team,” senior swingman Edwin Ubiles said. “We can’t go in there and think it’s going to be a cakewalk, because it’s probably not. We’ve got to go in there with the right mindset and same focus we had the last two years.”
The Saints are scheduled to practice at 2 p.m. today, then take a charter flight to Spokane. . . .
Tim Brando and Mike Gminski will be the CBS announcers for the Siena-Purdue game.
Categories: College Sports