Purdue adjusts after injury

Boilermakers win despite loss

Staff WriterMarch 24, 2010 

— In some ways, Duke's coaches have an easy scouting job this week as they prepare to meet Purdue on Friday night in the NCAA tournament's South Regional semifinals in Houston.

Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said there's not much sense in watching film of the first 31/2 months of Purdue's season, because the Boilermakers (29-5) became a completely different team after forward Robbie Hummel suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 24.

Lewis Jackson, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, has replaced the 6-9 senior Hummel in the starting lineup. And Purdue, which played with three guards and two forwards before Hummel's injury, now spreads four guards around the perimeter with 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson at center.

"They've changed their style," Krzyzewski said Tuesday. "They still run motion [offense] and play man [on defense], but now they can have four guards around Johnson. They run their motion offense just a little bit differently than they did with Hummel, and they've had success doing it."

Purdue was a candidate for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA tournament until Hummel, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, was hurt. The Boilermakers, who were 24-3 with Hummel, went 3-2 in their first five games without him, including a 69-42 debacle of a loss in the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota.

After that, the Boilermakers were left for dead. The committee that selects the NCAA tournament field dropped Purdue to a No. 4 seed.

"We obviously felt they weren't the same team without him," committee chairman Dan Guerrero said afterward.

The most fashionable upset pick before the tournament might have been No. 13 seed Siena over Purdue. Nonetheless, the Boilermakers defeated Siena 72-64 and eliminated No. 5 seed Texas A&M with in a 63-61 overtime win to reach Friday night's matchup with No. 1 seed Duke (31-5).

There, the Boilermakers will meet a team with a completely different makeup from their own. Purdue starts four players 6-4 or smaller. Duke starts three players 6-8 or taller and usually rotates 6-10 brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee into the game before the first media timeout.

Duke's rebound margin for the season is plus-6.1 per game. Since losing Hummel, Purdue's is minus-11.0 per game.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said the Boilermakers will have to use good positioning on the boards and will use their speed and perimeter shooting in an attempt to draw Duke's big guys away from the basket.

"When you play four guards, you've got to be able to use your quickness to help you a little bit, and you've got to use your skill level," Painter said Tuesday during a teleconference with the media. "You've got to be able to step up and make shots."

That game plan will place pressure on Blue Devils forwards Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler, both of whom are 6-8, to guard smaller players away from the basket. Singler has done that all season, and Krzyzewski at times has had Thomas guard opponents' point guards.

"People try to spread us out," Duke guard Nolan Smith said, "and they can't do it, because he can guard one through four [every position except center]."

Although that strategy hasn't often worked for other teams, including California in Duke's 68-53 win Sunday, Purdue has little choice but to try it with Hummel gone.

And Krzyzewski sounded impressed with what the Boilermakers have been able to do with their new configuration.

He said the Big Ten tournament loss to Minnesota was Purdue's only bad game, and he said that's part of the process of getting better.

"I think they're a really good team right now," Krzyzewski said. "They play so hard. They play like they expect to win. And now they've come up, they're evolving. They're in the process of evolving."

Notes: Singler needed six stitches to close a cut near his eye after taking an inadvertent elbow during practice Tuesday. He is expected to be fine, Krzyzewski said.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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