WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Robbie Hummel drove to the basket, took hard contact and fell to the ground.
He made the shot, but Purdue's fans were a bit nervous. It was, after all, Hummel's first game action since tearing the ACL in his right knee in February 2010.
Hummel popped up, and the crowd let loose with something halfway between a collective cheer and a sigh of relief. He converted the 3-point play and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds as Purdue defeated Northern State 78-46 in its exhibition opener Tuesday night.
Hummel was fired up after the drive to the hoop, pumping his fist as he was on the ground.
"That definitely felt instinctive," he said. "I didn't think about that at all. It was good to come down awkwardly -- it was my left [knee] and not my right -- but obviously, I had nothing happen. That's always a plus."
The crowd wasn't sure what to expect from Hummel's return. He was one of Purdue's best players during the 2009-10 season before the injury. He had high hopes after surgery, but he re-injured the knee in preseason practice last year and missed the 2010-11 season.
He looked as good as new on Tuesday. His 18 points came in just 15 minutes.
"It was everything I could have hoped for, really," he said. "I feel like I've been getting better every day in practice, and I felt like I was prepared for tonight."
It was just as important for Hummel to figure out what he should do when he wasn't in the game.
"It's the first game back, so I don't really know what helps me at this point," he said. "I didn't want to tighten up. After a while, I felt like I was OK as long as I was sitting with my leg straightened out, I was cool."
Purdue coach Matt Painter was pleased with what he saw.
"I think it's good for him to get out there in front of people and play," he said. "He's looked very good in practices. He looks comfortable. The ball goes in. He makes 3s, he makes pull-ups. This is the way he's looked in practices and scrimmages. He's been very efficient."
Hummel gave his teammates credit for his performance.
"The guys did a pretty good job of finding me in places where I could score, and I was fortunate for the shots to go in."
Hummel looked a bit hesitant with rebounding at times.
"That's something that needs to be coming along in practice every day, and that's something I need to get more comfortable with," he said. "As I get more comfortable with it, I'll get better at rebounding with people around me. It's something that I have to get used to."
Hummel took several other hits, and each time, he got up with no problem.
"I think I definitely gained some more confidence, and each time I get hit and knocked down, I get an opportunity to gain confidence."