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Illinois 66, Purdue 57: Boilers Miss Golden Opportunity

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Purdue blows an opportunity to pick up a good road win in Big Ten play.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

The game was right there for the taking. Purdue led by six with just over a minute to go before half and had generally outplayed the Illini in every facet. Only 10 offensive rebounds and a boatload of free throws had kept them alive, as they were shooting less than 25% from the floor. Then two turnovers led to an 8-0 run and Illinois inexplicably had a 32-30 lead at halftime despite shooting so poorly.

That is where Purdue lost the game. Purdue wasn't playing well, but was in control up 8. Then it melted down, causing a 12-2 run. Suddenly Illinois was up 2 in a game where they should have been down eight if not more at the break. All the momentum was back in their favor, and it showed because they were the more confident team late.

It was a game Purdue should have won because the Illini were missing three starters. It was a game Purdue should have won because the Illini were shooting so poorly. Even with Kendall Stephens not scoring at all and not playing in the second half due to a hand injury Purdue could not take advantage of a foul situation in their favor with Leron Black and Nnanna Egwu both battling foul trouble. Purdue never could get that fifth foul on Egwu, even though he got away with one on Hammons and there was a very questionable charge/block call where Mathias had time to build a small home in front of Egwu, but did not get the charge on an eventual three-point play.

Purdue missed free throws. Purdue had turnovers. Purdue missed shots. Purdue couldn't get key offensive rebounds that led to multiple second chance opportunities. Illinois gave Purdue every opportunity and then some to not only win this game, but win it going away. You felt like Purdue should have been up 15 in the first half, but it could barely get the lead to eight.

Then you had the second half. With Stephens out Purdue looked completely lost on offense. They couldn't get the ball inside to Hammons because the Illini regularly stacked 2-3 guys in front of him to block any pass. No one else could pick it up. Rapheal Davis had a nice stretch where he scored seven straight and then later hit a big three, but even when it got stops, Purdue couldn't get a basket when it needed one. In the mean time, Illinois hit a ridiculous amount of free throws. That allowed them to win a game where they shot 33% from the floor.

Even when things went well, like a key offensive rebound grabbed by Vince Edwards, Purdue couldn't score on the outback. Purdue did what it needed to do defensively to win on the road, but turnovers at critical times and missed shots were its doom. The Boilers were only down 1 with about five minutes left, but Illinois owned everything after the last media timeout.

This is a severe blow to Purdue's already weak tournament hopes. This was a game Purdue easily could have won because of the way Illinois played, but it pissed away too many chances. It was an opportunity to get a nice road win, but instead it is a missed opportunity. Now the Boilers have to go 9-3 in the final 12 games, which is unlikely.