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Purdue 96, Illinois 88: Double OT Shootout at High Noon

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Purdue goes into Champaigne and wins a double overtime thriller.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Just about tip-off, what was already a highly anticipated match-up between two ranked teams, Purdue became the #4 in the country according to the AP poll and Illinois #17 and the top-20 matchup in Champaigne lived up to all the hype as Purdue bests Illinois on the road, 96-88, in double-overtime.

It was a match-up of some of the best bigs in the country between Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn and Purdue’s two-headed monster, Zach Edey and Trevion Williams, and it was the biggest man making his claim as the best center in the country.

Zach Edey was efficient, dominant, and too big for Cockburn from the tip. Edey had 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting to go with 8 rebounds on a night where Cockburn and Williams both struggled to score from inside. For Cockburn, that trouble started and ended early with Edey holding the twenty point a game big man to just 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the floor and just five rebounds in twenty two minutes despite coming into the game as the only player in the country averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Edey was just too big for Cockburn to move and too athletic to get around. Edey on the other hand showed off his maturation, power, and touch, attacking the Player of the Year candidate and having his way with Cockburn most the game.

In a game where Cockburn wasn’t his normal star, the return to the backcourt for Andre Curbelo was a much needed shot of guard. Curbelo was incredible in his return to action after missing over a month of action, scoring 20 points and leading Illinois’s multiple late comebacks.

Alfonso Plummer led all scorers with 24 points, including 6 of 12 from three.

This was a game where Purdue dominated on the floor, even if not the scoreboard for large portions. They held the game’s biggest lead, a 13 point lead in the second half, and was consistently getting looks at the hoop and to the line.

But Coach Underwood was forced to go small with Cockburn in foul trouble and Illinois got hot from deep. Their pick and roll offense sliced through Purdue, forcing rotations and creating open looks for their bevy of undersized guards. Illinois was 12 of 33 from three in the game.

But Purdue found plays from their own guards.

Jaden Ivey took over the first overtime, getting to the line and attacking in transition. Ivey got to the line all game, taking 15 free throws on his way to 19 points and 8 rebounds.

He got help from Sasha Stefanovic who hit 5 of his 8 three pointers, most of them in the second half and overtime, and scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds of his own.

Trevion Williams was something of the forgotten big in this marquee game of centers. He struggled all game despite going against Illinois’s back ups for most the game. He had 14 points but went 6 of 18 from the field. But his 7 rebounds and 5 assists helped show the variety to his game. He found Eric Hunter Jr. on two cuts late for lay ups in the second overtime that helped Purdue pull away from a gassed Illinois team.

Eric Hunter Jr. had 11 points, including those two big lay ups late in what’s his best stretch of basketball ont he season.

This game is going to take a few more days to settle. Purdue played like the better team most the game, but again they struggled to finish down the stretch. They gave up leads late in regulation and overtime before finally coming out ahead.

Jaden Ivey missed the front end of a big free throw sequence in regulation, and Sasha twice missed a free throw in the overtime period that could have stretched Purdue’s lead to another possession. Illinois made shots and Purdue lapsed at times, but they also answered, emphatically, every time.

Ivey was a one man wrecking crew for good portions of overtime. Slicing through in transition and drawing fouls and finishing at the rim. Stefanovic found his jump shot on the road, making big time threes to keep Purdue in it and then pull away. Hunter found ways to show up on offense.

Mason Gillis led the team in minutes at 43. He only scored 3 points, but he was everywhere on defense, scrapping it up, and answering the question of who Purdue’s best four is.

It was a game where Purdue showed both its brilliance and its potential demise. But at the end of the day, it’s the best win of the year for maybe any Big Ten team. A huge road win against a top-20 Illinois team finally back to full strength.

Purdue is now back in the Big Ten race, a top 4 team again, and absolute contenders to go all the way in March.