Zach Edey: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block
Brandon Newman: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Braden Smith: 15 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists
Matthew Mayer: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist
In another game of polar opposites, Purdue played lights out in the first half against Illinois, racing out to a 21 point lead at halftime. Then Purdue let Illinois battle all the way back in the second to tie the game. Purdue would get the last laugh, outscoring Illinois 9-4 in the last 77 seconds, winning 76-71.
Could this have been a better half for Purdue? The crowd was electric, and Purdue got going in a hurry. Back-to-back steals by Brandon Newman led to layups for Purdue and Braden Smith took an open lane to the rim a few times. After a Newman 3, Purdue was up 11-0 just 3 minutes in. Purdue would stretch the lead to 13 and then cool off a bit, letting Illinois get back within 3 at 23-20. Purdue would go on a defensive tear over the next 8 minutes, outscoring the Illini 24-6 and taking a commanding 47-26 lead into halftime. Brandon Newman was the star of this half, scoring 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals (he forced at least 5 turnovers though). Braden Smith also had a great half, scoring 14 on 6-8 shooting. Zach Edey did have 2 fouls in the half and was limited to just 8 minutes, but Big Maple still scored 8.
The second half was a bit of back and forth to start as Illinois got a few 3’s to fall. The lead began to shrink, as Illinois shot well from the 3. At the under-12 timeout, the lead was down to 13. Purdue was taking long, empty possessions and continued that trend as Illinois got the lead to 9 a few times. At the under-8 timeout, Purdue led 63-52. Illinois just kept coming though. The lead went to 8 to 6 to 4 in a hurry by the under-4, Purdue led 65-61. Illinois would send Matthew Mayer to the line after a hard foul down 1. Mayer missed the first and made the second to tie the game at 67 with 1:17 left. Zach Edey would make a bucket to put Purdue up 2 and an Illinois turnover ensued. After Fletcher Loyer made 2 free throws on the other end, Illinois airballed a 3 and Newman got to the line. Newman made both and Coleman Hawkins got to the line, missed both but an Illinois rebound on the second got the Illini back to the line. RJ Melendez then made 1 of 2 and Purdue was up 73-68 with 12.3 left. Illinois would make another deep 3 but Purdue would close it out with 2 clutch free throws by Brandon Newman.
This is sort of the game you want to see in the regular season finale, but especially the first half. Purdue did not play perfectly but gave tons of effort, working around Edey’s first half foul troubles. The second half was bad, but it showed like a tournament setting at the end, something that Purdue will see a lot coming soon.
Loyer, Morton, and Jenkins all had rough days today. The trio combined for 8 points on 2-10 shooting. These guards will need to be bigger factors for a BTT and NCAAT run, and they are more than capable.
Brandon Newman has earned a start for the rest of the season. He’s just floating on on-ball defense and his offense is starting to take shape. Plus, he is playing clutch minutes for Matt Painter. Nobody deserves it more than the former Valpo High School standout.
Onto the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue will play the early game Friday against the 8 or 9 seed. Let’s put another trophy (or more) in our case this year! Boiler Up!