Illinois came out firing on all cylinders, looking like the Illinois we expected this season. Making 12 of their first 16 field goals to go on a 16-5 run, the Illini were up 31-18 with 8:04 left in the first half. After that, the Boilermakers called a timeout, got adjusted on defense, and went on a fierce 12-0 run to pull with one, with the score 31-30. The Illini succumbed to the type of disappointing team we know them to be this year hitting only 14 of 37 from the field after that.
E`Twaun Moore hit a three pointer at the buzzer to tie the score at 37 at halftime. Coming out of the half, the Boilermakers picked up where they left off on the comeback train, with Moore hitting a huge jumper and then JaJuan Johnson converting an old fashioned three point play to put the Boilers up 44-39. Purdue never gave the lead back up, as they went on a 7-0 run as soon as Mike Davis received his fourth foul to go up 60-51. The closest the Illini got after that was when they had a chance to tie the game at 60-all, when the score was 60-58. The Illini never got over the hump they needed to tie it or take the lead as with 58 seconds to go Moore hit a big three as the shot clock expired to put the Boilers up 72-64. The final score was 75-67.
Purdue finishes 16-0 at home, which is the first undefeated home season for Purdue since 1969, when Big Ten legend Rick Mount lead the Boilers to a 11-0 home season and went on to play in the national title game.
Purdue couldn't have sent two of it's all time greatest players off if it wasn't for the career high 16 points by D.J. Byrd. He hit a few big threes and converted on most of his free throws, excluding the end of the game, where he missed some important key free throws that could have put an Illini win out of reach sooner. Moore finished with 18 points and JaJuan Johnson finished with a team-high 23 points.
Purdue's Lewis Jackson has a relatively quite game after he emerged as a scorer Purdue can depend on. He finished with five points. Ryne Smith had a career high nine rebounds, even though the Boilers were out-rebounded 31-30. It will be huge in the tournaments coming up for Purdue to get some production on the glass from some bench players.
Illinois did an okay job on the boards. Pulling down one more than Purdue but being out-rebounded offensively 8-5. Purdue forced the Illini into 13 turnovers while Illinois forced Purdue into just seven.
Overall, Purdue made shots when it mattered most. Illinois just couldn't hit the key shots they needed to hit to win this game. Illinois sure had Purdue's crowd worried at the beginning of the game before they became the Illinois they have been this year. If Illinois could have kept up the level of intensity they brought for the first twelve minutes of the game, they could have won this game. This was a game Illinois would have loved to have as a win due to the way they are situated on the bubble. Purdue has now won five straight over the Fighting Illini and has put Bruce Weber on the hot seat.
Up next, Purdue tries to stay in contention for the Big Ten regular season title on Saturday as they travel to Iowa for their final regular season game. Purdue should feel good about second, if Wisconsin fails to win at Ohio State on Sunday. Second is a big accomplishment for a team who was expected to finish as far down as fifth after Robbie Hummel got hurt. Purdue fans always believed in their team, and that is why they are where they are right now. Purdue will probably receive at least a two seed in the NCAA Tournament and as of now they are very much in contention for a one seed.
Illinois will end its regular season at home against Indiana on senior night, a game they dropped in Bloomington 52-49. Illinois needs to win this game. There is no room for a loss. They need a good run in the Big Ten Tournament as well. The NCAA Tournament is in jeopardy for the Illini, so a loss to Indiana again, is something they just can not afford.