Illinois basketball survives Purdue surge to earn third straight victory
For most of Saturday’s game, it appeared that Illinois was in full control in its game against Purdue.
But for one five-minute stretch to start the second half, the Boilermakers most certainly had the No. 15 Illini on their heels. Fortunately for Illinois, that run was short lived.
After allowing 19 unanswered points to Purdue, the Illini fought back and reclaimed the lead. That advantage grew and grew as Illinois held on to defeat the Boilermakers 66-58 at State Farm Center in Champaign.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Illini jumped out to a 10-point lead as Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn continued his strong play in the front court that has frustrated opponents. He finished the game with a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman Andre Curbelo was also assisting the effort with some quality passes.
Halftime: No. 15 Illinois 33, Purdue 23.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 2, 2021
With a 10-point lead heading into the second half, the Illini had some breathing room. That was taken away quite quickly. About five minutes into the second half, Illinois found itself playing catchup as the Boilermakers roared out to a six-point lead thanks to a 16-0 run to open the half.
Trevion Williams and Brandon Newman were the two catalysts for Purdue’s offense as they each tallied a team-best 14 points in the game.
Despite that big run, the Illini quickly recovered and started to once again build up a lead. This one would never go away. Besides Cockburn’s contributions, three other Illinois players — Damone Williams, Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller — were all in double figures in Saturday’s win.
Illinois now sits at 8-3 and 4-1 in the B1G. The Illini’s next matchup comes against in-state rival Northwestern on Thursday in Evanston.
As for Purdue, the Boilermakers fall to 7-5 and 2-3 in the Big Ten. Purdue hosts Nebraska on Tuesday.