Purdue has now won back-to-back games after dropping three straight with a road win against Illinois by a score of 70-58.
In a battle of conference foes, Purdue and Illinois traded buckets during the first quarter, but Cassidy Hardin hit two threes to keep pace with the Illini as the Boilermakers were down 16-15 after the first. Purdue came out firing on all cylinders in the second quarter as they went on a 9-0 run to take a 24-16 lead but Illinois responded, going on a 9-0 run themselves. When Ae’Rianna Harris picked up her second half of the first half, the Illini took advantage of the All-Big ten shot-blocker being absent from the game. To close out the quarter, Cassidy Hardin and Lindsey Whilby both hit from deep to take a 30-25 lead into halftime.
The Boilermakers picked up where they left off coming out of the break and shot 57% from the field in the third quarter while playing great defense to take a commanding 49-35 lead to end the third quarter. Purdue cut down their turnovers, with only 7 in the second half after coughing it up 14 times before halftime.
The Illini just could not catch up to end the game as Kayana Traylor and Ae’Rianna Harris tormented the Illinois defense to close it out. This was a big boost for the Boilermakers to get a win on the road, even though it was against a struggling Illinois team.
The Boilermakers were able to get another conference win without leading scorer Karissa McLaughlin as she continues to sit out with a concussion and a leg injury suffered against Iowa last Sunday.
Purdue had 4 players in double figures, led by Ae’Rianna Harris was again the anchor for Purdue in the frontcourt as she put up 16 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds. You can make the argument that Harris has been the Boilermakers’ best and most consistent player all year long.
Cassidy Hardin who was on fire in the first half from deep, connecting on 4-6 attempts from behind the arc for 12 points, was a big reason that Purdue was able to go into halftime up 5. She ended the game with a career-high 15 points on 5-8 shooting from long range, in what was her best game of the season.
Sharon Versyp also got contributions from guards Dominique Oden and Kayana Traylor, Oden had an all-around great game as she did a little bit of everything today, scoring 16 points, pulling down 9 rebounds and dished out 6 assists on the way to the win. Traylor also had a good game with 11 points and added 4 rebounds to go along with 4 assists as well.
This was a must-win for the Boilermakers as Illinois is second to last in the Big Ten standings, so if Purdue could not handle them, the NCAA Tournament might have been out of the picture. Next, they will take on Michigan State who just snapped their 5 game losing streak against Rutgers last time out. It will be interesting to see if Karissa McLaughlin will be able to go for Purdue after sitting out the last two games. The Spartans will be in Mackey Arena on Thursday, February 20th at 7:00 pm on BTN.