The Illinois Fighting Illini have fallen, and they just can’t seem to get back up. They came in to this game looking to stop the 2 game losing streak that saw some ugly basketball played on the offensive end of the floor, but when the final buzzer sounded the losing streak extended to 3 games as the Purdue Boilermakers knocked off the Illini 66-58 behind yet another solid game from Boiler big man A.J. Hammons.
Hammons finished the night with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. He owned the paint on both ends of the floor all night long, but Illinois was never completely out of the game until the final minute.
The two teams traded the lead 11 times throughout the game, and while it wasn’t exactly the same as the Northwestern game, it sure brought back memories of Tre Demps. With 5:34 left and Illinois clinging to a 52-51 lead, the Purdue 3 point attack suddenly awoke as first, Ronnie Johnson, and then, Kendall Stephens, hit threes on consecutive possessions to give the Boilermakers the lead for good.
Illinois had their chances in this game for sure, but 7 missed free throws cost them tonight. They missed the front end of one and one’s on four different occasions down the stretch, and Joe Bertrand also missed 2 of 3 after being fouled on a 3 point attempt. It wasn’t layups tonight, the culprit was the charity stripe. Illinois finished the game shooting 61.1% by converting 11 of 18 free throw attempts.
Illinois was also out-rebounded 42-31 despite leading the rebounding battle at halftime 22-19.
The Illinois scoring looked like this: Tracy Abrams – 13 points. Rayvonte Rice and Joseph Bertrand added 11 points a piece. Kendrick Nunn – 8 points. Malcolm Hill – 7 points. Jon Ekey – 6 points. Maverick Morgan – 2 points.
Noticeably absent from this list is Nnanna Egwu, who finished with 0 points on 0-6 shooting including 0-3 from 3 point range. This was rock bottom for Egwu offensively. Here’s hoping things get better from here for the big man.
Illinois returns to action at 7 PM on Saturday night when they square off with #4 Michigan State at the State Farm Center.