Illinois men’s basketball struggles in second half, falls to Purdue away from home


Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer attempts a 3-pointer during the first half of Illinois men’s basketball’s game against Purdue at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Tuesday night.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

The No. 13 Illini got hot early and cold late, falling to the No. 3 Boilermakers, 84-68, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette on Tuesday night to snap a four-game winning streak.

Junior center Kofi Cockburn finished with a team-high 18 points for the Illini, while Purdue sophomore guard Jaden Ivey led all scorers with 26 points, 22 of which came in the second half.

Illinois got out to a quick start, jumping out to a 14-8 lead within the first five minutes of the first half. Cockburn scored the Illini’s first four points, getting two jumpers in the paint to fall despite two defenders in his face.

Graduate student forward Jacob Grandison scored Illinois’ next five points on a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup, while graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer opened his account with a three in transition.

Purdue’s big men, sophomore center Zach Edey and senior forward Trevion Williams, combined to score eight of their team’s first 12 points. A triple from Illinois fifth-year senior guard Da’Monte Williams and layups from Plummer and Cockburn gave the Illini a 21-12 lead, less than 10 minutes in the opening period of play.

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The Boilermakers soon began picking up steam and got hot, using a 14-0 run over the next three minutes to take their first lead of the game, a 26-21 advantage. Purdue’s bench scored all 14 points during that stretch, with Williams, freshman forward Caleb Furst and sophomore guard Ethan Morton all scoring.

A 3-pointer from sophomore guard Andre Curbelo briefly derailed the Boilermakers, but a 5-0 run from the home side extended their lead to seven points.

Illinois closed the half strong despite the rowdy Mackey Arena crowd. Three Plummer triples sparked a 14-5 Illini run over the final five minutes of the frame, and the visitors headed into halftime with a narrow two-point lead. 

Plummer led all scorers with 14, Curbelo registered nine and Cockburn finished with six despite playing just 10 minutes after getting in foul trouble. Williams led Purdue with 10 points.

After being held scoreless in the first half, senior guard Eric Hunter Jr. got going early in the second, going 4-4 and scoring nine of his team’s first 18 points of the frame. Purdue went on a 18-8 run over the opening five minutes to take an eight-point lead, 54-46.

A personal 4-0 stretch from Curbelo cut the Illini’s deficit to four, but a triple from Ivey and an Edey dunk extended the Boilermakers’ lead to 59-50, their largest of the game.

Ivey got going, scoring nine of Purdue’s next 14 points as the Boilermakers used a 14-2 run to extend their lead to 17 with just over eight minutes to play. Illini senior guard Trent Frazier went down holding his knee during that stretch, but he later returned.

Purdue’s lead eventually grew to as many as 19, and the hosts never looked back. 

With the loss, Illinois dropped to 17-6 on the season and 10-3 in conference play, while Purdue moved into a tie for first place with a 10-3 Big Ten record. The Illini will look to get back on track and welcome the Northwestern Wildcats to State Farm Center on Sunday.



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