With 7:11 left in the first half, and Purdue cruising along with a 26-14 lead over Minnesota, every Purdue fan's worst nightmare flickered across the Big Ten Network airwaves.
Junior forward Robbie Hummel, off to a torrid start with 11 points, including three 3-point baskets, crumpled to the Williams Arena floor, reaching for his right knee, as he tried to execute a jump stop.
The Gophers proceeded to launch a 22-4 run, including 19 in a row over a 10-minute span, putting Purdue in a six-point hole.
Gutsy shots from the likes of John Hart and Chris Kramer kept the Boilers clinging to life, but the fact remained that after an 11-for-17 shooting start, the Boilers were held to 13-of-36 after Hummel's injury.
While little is known yet about Hummel's condition, the condition of the Boilers' offense without him borders on critical.
Forced to play virtually every minute with only Chris Kramer to offer competent help on Minnesota's twin towers of Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, JaJuan Johnson began to look very rubber-legged by game's end.
E'Twaun Moore was the exclusive focus of Minnesota's perimeter defense with Hummel out, and his 1-for-7 night from long distance did little to help Purdue climb back into the game. He did make four big free throws to trim the Gopher lead, but an ugly miss with 40 seconds left allowed Minnesota to score for the lead rather than a tie.
Only the third straight double-figure game from "Kardiac" Keaton Grant saved Purdue from a harsh defeat, one which would have almost certainly closed the door on their hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Grant drilled a huge three-pointer over the charging Sampson with 1:24 left, then delivered a dagger from the top of the key with 13 seconds left.
Unfortunately, Boiler fans may be hesitant to pin too many hopes on a man who came into this game shooting 26 percent from downtown, no matter how many big late shots he hits. Turnovers and iffy shots from Grant helped keep Minnesota in front for as long as they were, and the late-game heroics almost turned out to be too little too late.
A win in Sunday's game with Michigan State will look even more doubtful if Boiler fans get news similar to what Texas fans received on Dogus Balbay's similar-looking injury from Saturday. Balbay suffered a season-ending ACL tear against Texas Tech.
While delighted to survive another squeaker in a difficult Big Ten road venue, Boiler fans will be perusing their favorite basketball sites desperately over the next few days, hoping that the news on Robbie Hummel is not as doom-and-gloom as it may first appear.
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