It has been a long layoff since Thursday. Purdue fans have had the bitter taste of the Iowa loss in our mouths since Thursday night and there has been nothing to wash it out over the weekend. Sure, we got some help in the Big Ten race, but the Boilers have still been sitting as they were one of two teams that did not play this weekend.
Now is our chance to get back in the race. Tonight Purdue hosts an Illinois team that is at least respectable when it comes to the computers. The Illini are a top 50 team according to the RPI. KenPom has them at 65 and they are at least a fringe NCAA Tournament team. Of course, you could assign “fringe NCAA team” to 13 of 14 teams in the conference right now.
Illinois needs this win to stay in the hunt for a return to the NCAA Tournament. Purdue needs to this win if it is going to win the Big Ten. It should be fun.
From: Champaign, IL
Date : Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 13.5
2015-16 Record: 15-19, 5-13 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 11-6, 2-3
Opponent Blog: The Champaign Room
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 99-87
Last IllinoisWin: 84-70 at Illinois on 1/10/2016
Last Purdue Win: 89-58 in Big Ten Tournament at Indianapolis on 3/11/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 30 Appearances, last in 2013. 2005 NCAA Runner-Up
Last season Purdue and Illinois played twice, and it was a wild swing for the Boilers both times. Malcolm Hill had 30 and Kendrick Nunn had 22 as Illinois blew out Purdue by 14 in the second half when the game was tied at halftime. It was a terrible defensive performance, specifically in the second half, to a team that really was not good last year.
The rematch came in Indianapolis during the Big Ten Tournament, and it was a no contest. Isaac Haas had 16 and Caleb Swanigan had an 11 and 12 as Purdue blasted the Illini by 31 points in a game that wasn’t even that close. Purdue led by 20 at the half and even Stephen Toyra scored. In total, Purdue played 13 guys and only Grady Eifert did not score.
What we see tonight will likely be somewhere in the middle. This year’s Illinois team is better, as they are at least fighting for an NCAA bid. They had a bad home loss to Winthrop in late November, but got nice non-conference wins over North Carolina State, BYU, and VCU. So far in league play they have lost to Maryland twice and at Indiana. They beat Michigan and Ohio State, however. To make the NCAA tournament they are probably going to have to win 10 games in the Big Ten, but that is not impossible.
The Illini are led by Hill, who torched Purdue on 9 of 15 shooting and 10 of 14 from the line last year during game one. He had a much harder time in the second game, going 5 of 13 for 16 points. He averages 18.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Two other Illini players average in double figures. Leron Black averages 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds. Maverick Morgan averages 10.1 points, while Tracy Abrams is just outside of 10 points per game at 9.9. Abrams is the reigning Old Man of the Big Ten. He was a multi-game starter as a freshman… back in 2011-12. He completely missed each of the last two seasons with an ACL tear, then an Achilles tear.
For perspective, Abrams scored 22 points in a game he started against Robbie Hummel, making him the only player in the league that can say he played against Hummel.
What could be tricky for Purdue is that the Illini have the height to compete straight up with our frontcourt. Mike Thorne Jr., Michael Finke, and Morgan are all 6’10” or taller and can play well inside. They also have solid guards off the bench like Jalen Coleman-Lands, an Indiana kid averaging 9.1 points per game. Coleman-Lands may be seeking vengeance since Jon Octeus killed his former HS teammate Collin Hartman.
This could be a sloppy game as both teams are prone to stretches of turnovers. What helps Purdue is that the Boilermakers are much better at sharing the basketball, averaging over 19 assists per game.
And that is what will be the difference. Purdue blew a 9 point halftime lead at Iowa because its second half defense sucked and it stopped looking for the best possible shot offensively in the second half. The Boilers shot themselves out of the game with too many threes and both Swanigan and Vince Edwards were second half no shows. If Purdue truly learned from that game it should be fine.
The Big Ten title is back on the line here, as Purdue controls its destiny for at least a share of the title as long as Wisconsin loses one more time in 14 games. The Boilers simply cannot afford to drop a second conference home game. If they don’t get it done tonight the grumblings after losses will turn in to full grown panic.