No. 3 Purdue beats No. 13 Illini for share of Big Ten lead
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Jaden Ivey scored 26 points and Eric Hunter Jr. scored all nine of his points during a key run to start the second half Tuesday night, leading No. 3 Purdue past No. 13 Illinois 84-68.
The Boilermakers (21-3, 10-3 Big Ten) have won six straight and nine of 10 to grab a share of the league lead.
Illinois (17-6, 10-3) was led by Kofi Cockburn, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. Andre Curbelo added 15 points as the Fighting Illini had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The hype for this game began almost as soon as the final buzzer sounded in Purdue's double overtime victory last month and took on even more urgency when conference officials moved the game up two days from the initial schedule for a clash between conference contenders.
The rematch didn't disappoint.
A boisterous, early-arriving crowd kept the decibel level high all night -- especially as the Boilermakers started pulling away midway through the second half. But it also energized Purdue, which had a slow start and endured a series of back-and-forth moments.
But after Curbelo drove the length of the floor for a buzzer-beating layup to give Illinois a 38-36 halftime lead, Hunter opened the second half with nine points during a 16-8 spurt that put Purdue up 52-46 and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The Boilermakers never trailed again and sealed the victory with a 14-2 run.
Illinois: Tuesday's loss is not debilitating. The Illini are tied with Purdue and No. 14 Wisconsin atop the Big Ten. But it certainly makes the championship journey more challenging, especially after getting swept by the Boilermakers. Expect Illinois to rebound quickly and in impressive fashion.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have been the Big Ten's highest-ranked team most of this season Now, after starting 1-2 in conference play, they finally have a share of the league lead. Purdue has gone 98-11 in their last 109 home games and this time did it with the kind of balanced attack it will need to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
With No. 1 Auburn losing Tuesday night and the Boilermakers with two more chances to impress voters this week, against Michigan and Maryland, Purdue could be in position to claim the top spot for the second time this season -- and the second time in school history. The loss shouldn't hurt Illinois too much.
Illini guard Trent Frazier had the biggest scare of the night when he fell to the floor clutching his left knee with 8:15 to play. Replays appeared to show his knee and Ivey's knee collided. Frazier needed help to reach the bench, though he returned a short time later and finished the game.
Illinois: Hosts in-state rival Northwestern on Sunday.
Purdue: Travels to Michigan on Thursday for a rescheduled game.