Jan 2, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Men’s Basketball: Illini Drop Conference Opener Against Purdue

The #11 Illinois Fighting Illini dropped their Big Ten Conference opener on the road against the Purdue Boilermakers, 61-68.

With the win, the Boilermakers extended their winning streak over the Illini to eight games. If Purdue defeats Illinois is their next meeting this season, they would tied their longest winning steak against the Fighting Illini (nine straight victories from February 20, 1996 to January 12, 2000).

Wednesday’s game was absolutely terrible for Illinois. They shot a miserable 35.9 percent from the field and just 38.5 percent from 3-point range. This was strange because they opened the game by making 6 of 10 from the field and 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.

Purdue’s one-two punch in the game was junior Terone Johnson and senior D.J. Byrd. Johnson went 9-of-18 from the field and scored 25 points. He also made six foul shots.

On the other hand, Byrd knocked down some huge 3-pointers. He went 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and knocked down three 3-pointers during a key second-half run for the Boilermakers. Byrd finished the game with 15 points.

The Illini had three players with double-digit points, but head coach John Groce was still left wondering where their scoring punch went.

Senior Brandon Paul came into Wednesday’s game with fourteen consecutive games with double-digits. He almost did not reach double-digits, but made two straight 3-pointers in the final 2:30 to make it fifteen games. He went 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc while scoring 15 points.

The other two Illini players to reach double-digits were junior Joseph Bertrand and sophomore Tracy Abrams. Bertrand scored 14 points off the bench and grabbed seven rebounds. Abrams only scored 12 points after scoring a career-high 27 points against Auburn.

Paul, Bertrand, and Abrams went a combined 14-of-37 (.378) from the field in their conference opener.

The Fighting Illini are now 13-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten.

Their next game will be against the #8 Ohio State Buckeyeson January 5th. The Buckeyes defeated Nebraska, 77-44, in their Big Ten Conference opener. Ohios State is 11-2 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten.

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Tags: Basketball Brandon Paul Illinois Fighting Illini Joseph Bertrand Purdue Boilermkers

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