The Purdue Boilermakers proved a lot to themselves and the nation with their dominating yet nerve-wracking performance against the #9 Illinois Fighting Illini. The Boilers’ performance was impressive considering Zach Edey was limited to just 23 minutes due to foul trouble in both halves.
The Boilers had a first-half lead of 16 points before the Illini cut it to 3 but battled back to push the lead to 15 at the end of the first half. The Boilers pushed their lead to as many as 21 in the second half before the Illini’s offense came alive and Purdue’s offense again went stale as the Boilers scored only 7 points from the 7:36 to 51.3 seconds left when referees went to the monitor following an out-of-bounds call on Mason Gillis. Instead, the referees came back from the monitor with a flagrant foul call on Lance Jones.
This was a game the Boilers had under control until those last 7:36 and the foul call on Lance Jones, which was originally called an out-of-bounds violation. Over that final 7:36, the Illini outscored the Boilermakers 21-11 and just seemed unable to gain control of the game. Instead of walking away with an impressive victory that could have easily been fourteen or more points, the visitors were able to again crawl back to within three after a deep Coleman Hawkins three-pointer with 13 seconds left. Purdue was able to seal the game on two free throws from Braden Smith for an 83-78 victory.
After an impressive first half that saw the Boilers limit the Illini to just 32 points and limiting Marcus Domask to 6 points and Coleman Hawkins to 7 points, Domask exploded for 20 points in the second half by consistently isolating Purdue defenders and going one-on-one into the post against Purdue’s smaller guards. Domask ended with a game-high 26 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Indiana native Luke Goode punished the Boilers from behind the arc with 16 points on 4-8 shooting from three-point range. The Illini ended up 8-19 for 42% from behind the arc.
With Zach Edey limited due to foul trouble, the Boilers leaned heavily on Trey Kaufman-Renn, and the junior delivered once again. With a season-high 27 minutes, TKR delivered for 23 points on 8-12 shooting overall and hitting his only three-point attempt. That shot, which came at the 5:10 mark left in the game, would be the Boilers’ final made field goal. It was the first time this season that TKR had offense run for him to get him targeted scoring opportunities.
Even with the limited amount of time for Edey, the front-runner for National Player of the Year was still able to control the game for short stretches as he went for 10 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Overall, Edey was a team-best +14 when he was on the floor, and his impact was clearly evident. Unfortunately, the referees, like they did throughout the game in other instances, impacted the game by limiting Edey to the bench for most of the first half and a long stretch in the second half.
One of the biggest keys in that second half was Purdue turning the ball over 8 times, with some of those coming at key moments of the game as the Illini were scrambling back into the game. Although the Boilers stayed within their average this year for turnovers at 12, the key of needing to cut down the turnovers at key points of the game is a point of emphasis the Boilers will look to improve upon moving forward.
The Boilers move to 14-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Big Ten with a trip to the surprising Nebraska Cornhuskers on January 9th.