- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Robbie Hummel looks healthy, and Purdue is playing like the team that was picked to win the Big Ten title.

Hummel finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds Saturday, and JaJuan Johnson had 20 points and three blocks to lead the Boilermakers past Illinois 66-56 Saturday and into the Big Ten tournament championship game.

The victory ends third-seeded Purdue’s three-game losing streak to the Illini (24-9) and sets up a rematch with fifth-seeded Ohio State, an 82-70 upset winner over No. 7 Michigan State. The Boilermakers and Buckeyes split the first two games this season, each winning at home.

It’s the first time since 1998 that Purdue (24-9) will play for the tourney title.

Second-seeded Illinois was again without senior guard Chester Frazier, who missed his second straight game after having surgery on his right hand Thursday. And unlike Friday night’s quarterfinal win over Michigan, the Illini struggled without him.

But it’s been a remarkable recovery for Purdue, which ran into trouble when Hummel was recovering from a stress fracture in his back. It then lost its final two regular-season games.

During their two tourney wins, though, Hummel and the Boilermakers have played quick, efficient basketball.

They’ve connected on 19 3-pointers and committed 10 turnovers in two games.

And much of the reason for the change is Hummel, who dominated the first half with 14 points and six rebounds. That opened things up for his teammates, particularly Johnson. The Boilermakers repeatedly went inside to Johnson in the second half and he delivered with 12 points in the final 20 minutes, a day after the first-team all-league pick played just 17 minutes in a quarterfinal victory over Penn State.

Dominique Keller led Illinois with 16 points and Calvin Brock with 12, but the Illini couldn’t recover from a 20-point halftime deficit.

Hummel was the difference early.

He scored eight points in an early 10-0 run that gave Purdue an 18-8 lead, and he finished a 14-0 run to close the first half with a nifty 3-pointer off a catch-and-turn to make it 37-17.

The Fighting Illini outscored Purdue 7-2 to open the second half, closing 39-24, but Purdue answered with a 9-2 spurt rebuild a 50-28 lead. Illinois never got closer than 12 until the game’s final basket.

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