5 painful observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Purdue

This was a golden opportunity for the Illinois basketball team to arrive on the national stage. That opportunity was squandered, though.
Mar 5, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter and Illinois
Mar 5, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter and Illinois / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 5

3. Team-style basketball won out

Tuesday night featured a fascinating game between Illinois and Purdue. These two teams have some similarities, but they have two completely different approaches to the game of basketball.

Illinois played more of an isolation game, where the ball gets moved around a couple of times but it mainly sticks in one player’s hand. This player tries to create offense off the dribble.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Purdue. Even with one of the most dominating players in Big Ten history, the Boilermakers find a way to move the basketball. They play well as a team, and they pass the ball to find the open man or to create open looks.

Purdue’s style of basketball won out on Tuesday night. They played solid basketball on the road, and Illinois didn’t have an answer late in the game.

Going more of an isolation game for the Illini works against teams that don’t have a 7-foot-4 big man coming over on help defense. We can usually back a defender down and get an easy look. Illinois also wasn’t able to drive into the lane because of that same 7-foot-4 big man helping on defense.

When those two areas get shut down for the Illini, we are going to struggle. The ball didn’t move against Purdue, as Illinois’ nine assists tied the lowest number of assists for the program over the last nine games.

Purdue just plays a 1980s style of basketball. They have good ball movement, good communication, and they played a sound team game. While Illinois comes close to beating the Boilermakers, that style of plays continues to win out.