Purdue figured out how to quiet Brandon Paul last night; Photo by Cary Frye
After Purdue’s 68-61 victory over Illinois last night, the win streak for Boilermakers has now been extended to 8 straight games in a row. That includes wins at the Mackey Arena like last night, and wins in Champaign. In case you need help with the math, that means that seniors D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Brandon Paul have never beaten Purdue.
They beat the curse of the United Center, but Purdue Pete still has it in for the guys in orange and blue.
It’s amazing that Purdue is the team that the Illini just can’t beat. They have wins over every other team in the conference, which includes Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
At first I thought perhaps the long history between Matt Painter and former coach Bruce Weber was too close-knit, and Painter just knew Weber’s every move. Apparently not true, because now John Groce is 0-1 against Purdue. Unfortunately, last night was the first conference game, so he is also 0-1 in the Big Ten. Not really the way you want to start conference play.
What’s more annoying is that Purdue isn’t that good this year! After what seemed like 10 years as a Boilermaker, Robbie Hummel is finally gone! JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore area long gone. If ever the Illini had a chance to break the streak, that was this year. Purdue is rebuilding, and our senior leadership should have showed those Boilermaker freshmen what’s up. Going into the game we had a record of 13-1, while Purdue was at .500 with a record of 6-6.
The game was pretty even throughout, and the lead volleyed back and forth. The Illini had a 6-point lead with 11 minutes to go in the game, but that lead disappeared and swung the other direction – and stayed there. Purdue jumped out to a 10-point lead with 3 minutes to go, and it looked to be over for Illinois. Then, Brandon Paul – who had been quiet all night thanks to the stifling defense – came alive.
After a Tracy Abrams steal, Paul made a 3 that got the guys within 5 points with 2:17 to go. Then, after a Richardson steal, Paul made another 3, cutting the lead to just 3 points with a lengthy 1:47 to go. Terone Johnson scored, then Richardson made another 3, putting us down just 2 points with 30 seconds to go.
Our good luck ended there, because the same way Paul came alive at the end, so did Purdue senior D.J. Byrd. Our shots stops falling, and we were forced to foul. Suddenly, Purdue couldn’t miss, and they ran away with the game.
Johnson poured in a career-high 25 points for Purdue, and also grabbed 9 rebounds. The Illini were outrebounded (yet again) 38-31. Scoring was really the problem for Illinois, with Paul leading everyone with just 15. Bertrand was in double figures with 14, as was Abrams with 12. The team had 6 steals and just 9 TOs, as well 6 blocks (5 of which came solely from Nnanna Egwu). But if you can’t get the ball in the basket, these other stats don’t matter too much.
Illinois did make 10 3’s, but attempted 26. They also shot just 35% compared to 41% from Purdue. The main problem was that Purdue figured out how to shut down Paul. This is going to happen again and again in the Big Ten, so we have to figure out how to fix the problem.
This was a road game, so a loss isn’t the end of the world, but it was to a team that might end up at the bottom of the conference at the end of the year. We still have to move on to face top-tier teams, on the road and at home. It’s hard to ignore the visions of last year’s epic collapse…
A record of 13-2 is still a nice place to be, but my confidence in this team has slipped. There were flashes of greatness in this game, and I thought that they had it in the bag, I really did. Now I see the holes in the team, and I’m scared for what’s to come.
The key here for the team to stay confident, and to come back and beat No. 8 OSU at home this weekend. OSU is a much better team than Purdue, but we’ll probably have a full house at the Assembly Hall. I don’t expect another 45-point game from Paul, but I do expect some action.
The Illini will welcome Ohio State on Saturday at 1:15.