By Jeff Goodman
Robbie Hummel will play his final game at Mackey Arena on Wednesday night.
Yes, I wanted to be there as an admitted card-carrying member -- OK, the president -- of the Hummel Fan Club. But it's hard to justify making a trip to West Lafeyette to watch the Boilermakers host Big Ten cellar dweller Penn State. Even on Senior Night -- and even with a resurgent Purdue that has reeled off four of its last five.
"It'll be strange," Hummel said. "It's weird because it seems like I've been here forever, but at the same time it also feels like it's gone by quickly."
"I know my mom's going to cry," he added.
She may not be the only one, either. I may have a few boxes of Kleenex by my side while watching the festivities on the Big Ten Network.
In all seriousness, though, the good news for Hummel and Matt Painter isn't just that his knees have held up this season after a pair of torn ACL's. It's that he and his teammates are playing as well as they have all year long. It's also no shock that it's coincided with the departure of Kelsey Barlow.
"We're peaking at the right time," he said. "This is the most fun I've had all year. We're in a good place with the team chemistry."
We all remember the quote from fellow senior Ryne Smith after Barlow was booted a couple weeks ago.
"Addition by subtraction," he said.
But it's more than that. Hummel is playing like the the old Robbie Hummel. Lewis Jackson's back has improved significantly. Terone Johnson is coming off the best game of his career in the shocking road win in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
Purdue coach Matt Painter has had a rough go this season. After losing E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, it was clear the Boilermakers would take a step backward.
But when Hummel went through a shooting slump (and that's being kind) in the middle of the season and Jackson could often be found wincing while fighting the the relentless back injury, the Boilermakers looked as if the string of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances was in jeopardy.
"There was a time when I wasn't sure I'd ever be good again," Hummel said. "It wasn't fun to play and not be what I was before. It sounds like a greedy thing to say, but it was tough."
Then Hummel's shot came back and Jackson's back starting improving. Now Purdue once again looks like a team again.
Hummel is averaging 23.2 points and 10.2 rebounds over the past five games and is shooting 47 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. Jackson logged a season-high 39 minutes per contest in the loss to Michigan State and is averaging 12.5 points and 5.0 assists over the past four games.
"He's playing well at the right time," Painter said. "Both of them have."
"The season has been a roller-coaster, but the last few weeks have been really fun," Hummel said. "Obviously, winning helps."
Purdue, which is tied with Indiana in fifth place in the Big Ten should get its 20th victory of the season against Penn State and the Boilermakers finish the regular season at Indiana this weekend. The Boilermakers had been 0-for-7 against ranked teams prior to the victory over Michigan on Saturday.
"It felt good to get over the hump," Hummel said.