MINNEAPOLIS — 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 Minnesota on Sunday night.
Byrd finished with a career-high 18 points for the Boilermakers (13-4, 3-1 Big Ten), who bounced back from an ugly loss at Penn State that prompted coach Matt Painter to describe his team as "fat and sassy."
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.
Rodney Williams led the Gophers (12-5, 0-4) with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
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.
Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe would've been one of the others, 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.
Freshman Joe Coleman started for the first time at the small forward spot in front of struggling sophomore Austin Hollins. Coleman scored all 14 of his points in the second half, a career high, giving the Gophers some hope as they crept back from an 18-point deficit to come within 68-61.
But those 10 shots Purdue made from 3-point range in the first half — in only 12 attempts — weren't going away. The Boilermakers were just 6 for 23 from behind the arc against the Nittany Lions on Thursday.
Nonconference losses to Alabama, Butler and Xavier likely won't hurt the Boilermakers with the NCAA tournament selection committee, but that 20-point loss to Penn State could still sting in March. They sure shot their way out of that three-day funk.
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, the junior with the buzz cut and a shooting stroke straight from the movie Hoosiers, came off the bench and swished three 3-pointers in a 2-minute span, one of them 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 too-easy 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.
Minnesota's 3-point defense is last in the conference, so Purdue's outside shooting success was no surprise, but for an athletic team that thrives on deflecting passes for fast breaks and blocking shots underneath Minnesota was totally off track. The Gophers had only one steal in the first half, and the Boilermakers — who began the week with the third-fewest turnovers per game in all of Division I — gave the ball away just three times.
Without Mbakwe's intimidating presence, Jackson and the rest of his teammates drove for all kinds of uncontested layups. Minimal playing time for 6-foot-11 senior Ralph Sampson III left the Gophers without another set of long arms, too. After committing a career-high six turnovers in a loss to Iowa on Wednesday night, Sampson had just two points and three rebounds.