Purdue, which was held to 37 points and a historically bad shooting percentage when it played at Illinois earlier this month, will be looking for Mackey Arena magic when it hosts the No. 21 Illini on Tuesday in the Big Ten rematch at West Lafayette, Ind.
The Boilermakers have won six consecutive home games against ranked teams, including a dominating 71-42 decision against then-No. 8 Michigan State on Jan. 12. Overall, Purdue has won 15 straight Big Ten home games, dating to February 2018.
In the first meeting against the Illini on Jan. 5, Purdue shot 15 of 60 from the field, including 3 of 17 from 3-point range, and was outrebounded 46-34. The 25 percent overall shooting was the worst mark in the history of Boilermakers basketball.
“Hopefully we’ll play better,” Purdue coach Matt Painter told reporters. “They just played harder than we did. They were better from a competitive standpoint. …
“We’re going to have to do a better job of executing on the offensive end and also the 50-50 balls and rebounds, we’re going to have to do a much better job and not let them dominate us.”
Purdue (10-8, 3-4 Big Ten) is coming off another troublesome offensive performance — a 57-50 road loss to then-No. 17 Maryland in which the Boilermakers were again 3 of 17 from beyond the arc. They are shooting 32.7 percent from long distance for the season, which isn’t good, but their defense more than compensates. Purdue is seventh nationally by allowing 27.3 percent 3-point shooting.
Illinois (13-5, 5-2) has won four consecutive games — all in the conference — and has a couple of first-round NBA draft prospects in athletic sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu (team-high 15.4 points per game) and freshman Kofi Cockburn, a 7-foot, 290-pounder who is averaging 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds.
But the Illini aren’t merely a two-man show. They joined the AP poll on Jan. 13 for the first time in more than five seasons with the help of guys like junior guard Trent Frazier, who topped 1,000 career points on Saturday when he scored a team-high 16 in Illinois’ 75-71 over Northwestern.
That also marked his sixth consecutive game without a turnover. He has gone 193 minutes, 24 seconds of game time since last giving the ball away in the second half against Missouri on Dec. 21.
“That’s unbelievable,” Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili said. “He’s a leader on this team and just an elite guard, not just in the conference but in the country.”
In the first meeting against Purdue, Illinois sophomore guard Alan Griffin had game highs with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. Painter called him the “best player on the court.”
Purdue has five players averaging at least 9.6 points per game, led by sophomore forward Trevion Williams, who is at 11.2 points per game. He also pulls down a team-best 7.8 rebounds per contest.
“He’s a guy who can get 20 rebounds in a game,” Painter said. “He could lead the nation in rebounding if he wanted to. He’s that talented. He has big hands; he’s strong; he’s got a good nose for the basketball. Just trying to get him on a night-in, night-out basis to do those things.”
The rematch could be another defensive tussle.
Purdue has held five opponents to 49 or fewer points, tied with Akron for the third-highest total in the country behind Virginia and Liberty (nine each). Illinois, which is three games above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time since Jan. 18, 2012, has its allowed seven conference foes to shoot a combined 38.1 percent.
–Field Level Media