WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP)Brandon Newman scored a season-high 19 points, Zach Edey added 17, and No. 5 Purdue held on to beat Illinois 76-71 on Sunday to become the first Big Ten team since 2014 to win the league title by three or more games.
The Boilermakers (26-5, 15-5) led by 24 early in the second half before the Illini rallied and eventually tied the game at 67 on a free throw by Matthew Mayer with 1:17 to go. Edey’s layup gave Purdue a 69-67 edge with 56 seconds left, and Illinois turned over the ball with 31 seconds left.
Purdue’s Fletcher Loyer sank two free throws to push the lead to 71-67 after an immediate foul. Mayer missed a 3-point shot and Newman made two free throws to push the lead to 73-67. Luke Goode hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 74-71 with 7 seconds left, but Newman hit two free throws to seal it.
“For myself, it’s been challenging, there’s been a lot of ups and downs,” said Newman, who averaged 5.6 points entering the game and had 15 points in the first half. “I just want to help my teammates win games. I was able to get some open looks from feeding into the post.”
Painter said Newman has earned more minutes lately with his defensive play.
“If he plays with that kind of effort and energy on the defensive end, you are going to stay in the game,” Painter said. “When you stay in the game, he’s a good enough offensive player he’s going to make shots. He took what the defense gave him.”
Braden Smith added 15 points for the Boilermakers. Edey, who entered the game with 23 double-doubles, finished with six rebounds and was played just 8 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
“It was huge because we built the lead with Zach not being in there,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
The Boilermakers led 47-26 at half behind 62% shooting, but dropped to just 29% in the second half.
“It’s kind of been our story,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s a challenging first half. We gave them live ball turnovers, we didn’t execute. It’s been our inability to execute on the offensive side early has been has been real problematic.”
Mayer led the Illini (20-11, 11-9) with 16 points, followed by Terrence Shannon Jr. with 13, Sencire Harris with 11 and Goode’s 10 points. Underwood said the team missed freshman guard Jayden Epps, who was sidelined with a concussion.
Underwood said of the second half that his team “settled in and look like a really good basketball team and made them guard us.”
Illinois: The Illini had won three of four games coming in but struggled with turnovers and outside shooting in the first half. However, the Illini showed fight.
Purdue: Following a stretch of losing four of six games, the Boilermakers have gotten some momentum by winning two in a row. Purdue allowed the Illini back into the game with costly turnovers.
ON MISSION FOR COACH
Purdue junior guard Ethan Morton said Painter has had some bad luck in the NCAA Tournament.
“Eventually water is going to find its level and he is going to have success,” Morton said. “I hope it’s why we’re here. We got this first (title) … We want to get him to the Final Four. I think he deserves that more than anyone in the world that is coaching.”
With victories over Wisconsin and Illinois, Purdue should remain in the top 5 heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Illinois: Awaiting its seed for the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.
Purdue: As the No. 1 seed, the Boilermakers will play the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game on Friday in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
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