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Purdue's Chris Kramer keeps Boilermakers steaming ahead

He raises his game after Robbie Hummel's injury. Duke is Purdue's next challenge in the South Regional.

March 25, 2010|By Chris Hine

Reporting from Houston — It didn't take Chris Kramer long to find out how his role on Purdue's basketball team was going to change once Robbie Hummel was injured — maybe all of a few minutes.

When the 6-foot-8 Hummel sustained a torn knee ligament during a game at Minnesota on Feb. 24, Boilermakers Coach Matt Painter called on Kramer to help guard Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson, who are 6-11 and 6-10, respectively.

The 6-foot-3 Kramer didn't mind.

"That's when it kind of set in that you're going to be playing against bigger post players," Kramer said Thursday. "You've got to go out there and battle and do your best to not let them get the ball on the post."

Without Hummel, everyone on Purdue has had to ramp up his game, and Kramer, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year, was no exception. The Boilermakers' success in doing so has landed them in a regional semifinal Friday here against Duke.

Kramer said guarding post players can sometimes be easier than defending the quicker guards and forwards he is accustomed to facing.

"If you can just beat the big guys to positions on the court and not let them get the ball in the post and then block out, most guys have a tough time being successful," Kramer said.

Defense has always been the integral part of Kramer's game, but lately he's been asked to score too.

"When you're dealing with a guy that hasn't shot a lot now and they miss a couple, they've got to still stay on the hunt," Painter said. "At times he doesn't do that and he needs to stay aggressive for us."

In the past, with so many scorers around him, Kramer deferred to Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twuan Moore. Not anymore.

In Purdue's victory over Texas A&M on Sunday, Kramer scored 17 points to lead the team for just the fifth time in his career. The last two came on a drive and layup that won the game in overtime.

"I always thought he had the ability" to score more, Moore said. "Sometimes, he was just laid back and unselfish. Now, he has the opportunity and he's taking advantage of it."

chine@tribune.com

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