Saturday, in a much more unexpected Boilermaker victory, Hummel's offense did the deed.
Hummel's 21 points spearheaded a fantastic shooting attack for No. 24 Purdue, which hung on for one of its biggest wins in recent history, a 72-67 win in front of 17,190 stunned fans at the Kohl Center.
"This is a huge win for our program," said Purdue coach Matt Painter, who starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior college transfer. "Our guys were focused tonight and ready to play, and I thought they made the plays necessary to win the game."
It was the young Boilermakers (19-5, 10-1 Big Ten) who snapped Wisconsin's 10-game winning streak on Jan. 26 with a 60-56 triumph in West Lafayette. Hummel blocked UW guard Michael Flowers' inside shot that would have tied the game with two seconds to go.
But that was in Purdue's Mackey Arena, where the Badgers (19-4, 9-2) have won just once in the last 35 years. In the rematch at the Kohl Center - where UW had been 51-2 in conference games under head coach Bo Ryan – Purdue was infinitely more energetic than Wisconsin from the start, running out to a 25-12 lead by scoring on 11 of their first 16 possessions.
Junior forward Nemanja Calasan, who played his last two seasons at Midland Junior College, ignited that opening burst with the Boilermakers' first eight points – two threes and a layup.
Ultimately, Purdue stirred up a perfect storm in the first half: as the Badgers struggled to find a rhythm, the Boilermakers shot the lights out at a 65-percent clip, including 6-of-10 shots from three-point territory.
"(The fast start) was huge," sophomore guard Chris Kramer said. "‘Nellie' came out with eight straight points, got us off rolling, and we just kept going throughout the half."
Flowers was the only Badger who wasn't flat-footed in the first half. Before the break, Flowers keyed UW with eight points (as did Marcus Landry, who only played 10 minutes because of foul trouble), and dished out three assists while grabbing two steals.
But Flowers wasn't careful with the ball, turning the ball over twice in the first 20 minutes. He wasn't alone, though: Wisconsin committed 10 turnovers in the first half, and six in the first eight minutes of play while the Boilermakers built up a 13-point lead.
"There was a lot of (defensive) pressure out there, we felt we could get some fouls," Ryan said. "Unfortunately, in some of the situations where we tried to probe, we lost the handle and you don't get a shot."
Flowers, who finished with 14 points along with sophomore guard Jason Bohannon, directed a 10-1 run that cut the lead to four. However, back-to-back buckets by Hummel and Moore kept the Badgers underwater.
In the second half, Purdue's young team felt pressure from the raucous Kohl Center crowd, which got louder every time Wisconsin drew within two possessions of the visitors. But the Boilermakers collected enough points to win, finishing with a 53-percent clip from the floor.
"They understand about making the extra pass, about playing team basketball," Painter said. "And they don't get rattled … I think we just have good poise as a team."
Purdue won in Madison for the first time since 1996, one year before the opening of the Kohl Center.
"I don't think intimidation means anything with this team," said Purdue sophomore guard Keaton Grant, who had nine points and three dishes. "Because we're so young, we feel that we can do anything."
Hummel, who finished 8-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-6 from downtown, had 13 points in the second half to hold off a furious rally from the Badgers.
"Robbie Hummel was huge, he really stretched their defense," Painter said. "I thought that was key for us, with their size, that we had to stretch them and make some perimeter jumpers."
Wisconsin entered Saturday's contest as the stingiest defense in Division I college basketball, giving up just 54.1 points per game. But the Boilermakers, who also got contributions from Kramer (12 points and three steals) and freshman guard E'Twaun Moore (11 points and a team-high five rebounds), passed that mark with over ten minutes left in the ballgame.
"Obviously, we shot a very high percentage from the field for us," Painter said. "They're one of the best defensive teams in the country … if we weren't able to make some shots early in each half, it's very difficult to score against this team."
The Badgers, meanwhile, simply had a cold night: 32 percent from the floor (16 percent from 3-point range), and a terrible assist-to-turnover ratio with nine helpers against 18 giveaways.
"Turnovers," Landry said flatly when asked for the biggest difference in the game. "We were careless with the ball today."
Wisconsin was terrific in two aspects: first, the Badgers completely dominated the Boilermakers on the glass, with a 43-21 advantage.
"To be able to get this win after getting outrebounded the way we did is a little bit unbelievable," Painter said.
Further, Wisconsin hit all 15 free-throw tries in the first half and connected on its first 20 attempts before junior forward Joe Krabbenhoft missed the back end of a one-and-one with 9:49 remaining. UW ended up going 30-of-33 from the line.
But those small victories will be of little solace to the Badgers, who also have little time to sulk about the shocking upset. Wisconsin heads to No. 13 Indiana next Wednesday, against a Hoosiers team that is 19-3 and 8-1 in the conference.
"Wins and losses say a lot, but we didn't think we gave our best effort tonight, and I think we're more disappointed with that than the loss," Krabbenhoft said. "We got away from some things that we can do a lot better, and we'll get back to them as soon as possible."
Krabbenhoft and friends can do that knowing they've concluded the season series with their newest nemesis: young Purdue, the ‘little engine that could'.
"Everybody still talks about how we're the ‘baby Boilers'," Kramer said. "I think we used that as motivation that we had something to prove."