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Wednesday B1G Preview: Illinois and Purdue Look To Keep Tournament Hopes Alive

As conference play begins to heat up, The Fighting Illini look to pick a conference win over the Boilermakers, and Michigan State tries to get back on track against a conference winless Penn State team.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten action continues to supply two Wednesday night basketball games, tonight in the first game Penn State travels to a struggling Michigan State team that was once ranked, and in the second match up Purdue heads to Illinois to take on the Illini in a battle where both teams can’t afford to lose.

Game of the Night

Purdue Boilermakers (11-7, 3-2) at Illinois Fighting Illini (12-7, 2-4) 9:00 ET on BTN

The Boilermakers look to build on last Saturday’s overtime thriller against Penn State (84-77.) Purdue was saved by Kendall Stevens’ (11.6 ppg) 6 of 12 three point shooting, including his biggest one with 5.7 seconds left after rebounding a Purdue missed free throw, Stevens was able to gain control of the ball and step out behind the arc and knock down the game tying shot. Stevens finished with 22 points on the night.

The Illini are coming off a six point loss to Indiana (80-74) after allowing James Blackmon and Troy Williams each score 21. The positives that came out of the close loss for Illinois was their ability to connect from long range making 12 of 27 three pointers including Kendrick Nunn with 6 threes and Ahmad Starks adding in 5 made threes.

Purdue has to get back to basics that they showed in their first two Big Ten conference games of the season. They have to play solid team defense, by communicating with each other and placing pressure on the Illini’s ball handlers. That all starts with Jon Octeus and Rapheal Davis playing with energy. The big men down low have to stay out of foul trouble, no one ever has scored from being on the bench. Finally Stephens has to continue to make shots from deep. If the Boilermakers are able to pressure the ball with their guards and allow for AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas to protect the basket without fouling, that will lead to fast break opportunities. Offensively having Kendall knock down his shot will draw the defense away from the big men down low and Purdue could have a hay day down low.

For Illinois to win today, it is pretty simple, shoot lights out again behind the arc. One of Purdue’s biggest weaknesses is allowing opposing teams to get wide open three point shots, and with Illinois making twelve on Sunday, this is where they have to look to attack. The other key is for the Illini to take advantage of being the home team and jump out ahead, the Boilermakers have shown they sometimes have faulty starts to games in which they come out slow. If Illinois can make the open three point shots and start out fast to get the crowd into the game, they will have a good chance of winning.

The Rest

Penn State Nittany Lions (12-6, 0-5) at Michigan State Spartans (12-6, 3-2) 7:00 ET on BTN

In a matchup between two teams who have struggled greatly to start off the Big Ten Conference season, Penn State looks to grab their first conference win of the season after starting the year off 12-1. On the other side, Michigan State started the year off ranked, but we have yet to see the Tom Izzo Final Four caliber teams that we have grown accustomed to watching. The positives about tonight’s game is that someone has to win, with the Spartans having two early season losses (both against Maryland) they cannot afford to pick up a bad conference loss at home. Penn State and DJ Newbill (21.7 ppg) will look to play spoiler to pick up their first win, he will have to have a big game like he did against Purdue where he scored 37, tonight if they want to have a chance at the end.