Last year’s trip to Champaign for Purdue was nothing short of a disaster. It may have been the worst played game in the 16-year tenure under coach Painter. Purdue lost 63-37 in a game where Illinois wasn’t particularly strong offensively, but Purdue was beyond atrocious offensively. Purdue shot just 25% from the floor (15 of 60), 17.6% from three (3 of 17), and 40% from the line (4 of 10). The Boilers didn’t even score until a Matt Haarms free throw with 13:09 left in the first half. They were only down 11-0 at the time, and even got it to 11-5 on baskets by Nojel Eastern and Isaiah Thompson, but Purdue never seriously challenged and nothing worked on offense.
It was so bad Tommy Luce played in a loss for only the second time in his career.
The Fighting Illini were a really bad matchup for us last season. They won by 26 in Champaign and by 17 in West Lafayette. They then proceeded to return most of their team, including two all-Big Ten caliber players in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. In my opinion, they are the most talented team in the conference this year.
So yeah, I am not thrilled about heading back to Champaign.
From: Champaign, Illinois
Date: Saturday, January 2, 2021
Tip Time: 6 p.m. ET
Location: Champaign, Illinois
Arena: State Farm Center (15,500)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2019-20 Record: 21-10, 13-7 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 7-3, 3-1 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: The Champaign Room
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 102-89
Last Illinois Win: 79-63 at Purdue on 1/21/2020
Last Purdue Win: 73-56 at Purdue on 2/27/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 30 appearances, last in 2013. 2005 NCAA Runner-up
Coach: Brad Underwood (54-52 in 4th season at Illinois, 105-77 overall)
It was a bit of a slow start to the Brad Underwood era at Illinois, but year three was a huge leap forward. After struggling to gain traction in his first two seasons Underwood had the Illini solidly in last year’s NCAA Tournament before it was cancelled. They even would have won a piece of the Big Ten title if not for a late loss at Ohio State.
The Illini entered this season with high expectations, but they have played a tough schedule. They lost to No. 2 Baylor 82-69 here in Indy, but got a road win at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They had a surprising loss at Missouri and dropped a 91-88 game at Rutgers, but have league wins over Minnesota, Penn State, and Indiana.
As expected, Dosunmu and Cockburn have been really, really good and they are matchup nightmares for Purdue. Dosunmu is averaging 24.1 points, 5.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game. He is the type of big, athletic guard that can give us fits and he is shooting 44% from there for good measure. He is probably going to be on the all-Big Ten team at the end of the year and would normally be a Player of the Year candidate in a non-Luka Garza year.
Cockburn is pretty much the complete opposite of our centers. He is an insanely athletic 7’ 285 pounds and he destroyed us in Mackey last year with 22 points and 15 rebounds. He is averaging 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds. With Dosunmu they have a great inside-out duo with Dosunmu able to do pretty much anything he wants to do on a basketball court.
Those two give Illinois possibly the best 1-2 combo in the conference. They have a solid supporting cast around them. Freshman Andre Curbello has had an excellent debut, averaging 9.9 points per game. Trent Frazier gives them a ton of experience in the “This guy is STILL there?” category. He is not the focus of the offense he was as a freshman, but he is a savvy senior averaging 9 points per game and shooting 41% from three. He also had 21 in the win in Mackey. Adam Miller, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, and Da’Monte Williams all offer balance by averaging more than 6 points per game.
Purdue somewhat dodged a bullet when it held Iowa well under it scoring average last week because our recent poor defense could have gotten us run off the floor. The Hawkeyes lead the conference in scoring, but Illinois is second at 87.3 points per game. They are also the best three-point shooting team in the league at 42.6%. Given Purdue’s struggles at defending the perimeter at Rutgers this is not good. Purdue needs vast improvement on defense, and Illinois is not the team to fix things against.
This is not a good matchup. Purdue lost 11 conference games a year ago. Several of them were close like at Michigan, at Maryland, at Wisconsin, and Rutgers. Illinois flat out kicked our ass twice and most of that team is back. Purdue needs to have the defensive performance it had at Iowa combined with the offensive performance it had at Rutgers. This is a really bad matchup for us and I would be very surprised if Purdue won.