Yes, it seemed like the Illini were back to their old shooting ways at Mackey last night, hitting 41% of their shots in the first half, including five treys. But a 20-4 Boiler run in the second half was the death knell for the orange and blue . This is a tough one to swallow, as it means this senior class is still yet to get a win against the gold and black. It also serves as an example about how tough each B1G game will be this year, although, that’s really no different than any other year.
Gotta admire the intensity of Coach Groce after the game…
Other things that stood out to me from last night:
- No second half points from Brandon Paul until the 3:15 mark. Note sure if he was stymied by the Purdue D or if he just wasn’t getting the touches he needed, but either way it’s tough to win if your best player isn’t scoring when you need him to.
- BTN color man Shon Morris had this to say about Joe Betrand: “When this kid comes in, good things happen.” Couldn’t have said it better myself…14 points, 7 rebounds for JB last night. He’s been very steady for the Illini this year. Gotta wonder if he’ll ever crack the starting lineup…maybe slip into DJ’s slot if he continues to slump.
- Nnanna Egwu almost outblocked the entire Purdue team with five swats. That’s the type of stats you want to see from your big man.
Congrats to penniless, sunnyd503, and Reillini. You folks went out on a limb and it paid off. Reillini picked the score most accurately, though, so he/she is in first place after game one. Illiniearl, tough news for you, as you predicted a big Illini victory, so your RSDT puts you in last place. No one should fret, though, as there is still plenty of time to make up ground. Click here  for a reminder of how we're running things.
On to the next one…
We all remember what happened the last time that the Ohio State Buckeyes came to the Assembly Hall . That game definitely goes in my top 10 Illini basketball moments…maybe even the top 5. What many might not remember, though, is that OSU made like Stone Cold Steve Austin  and opened up a can of whoop you-know-what on the Illini around a month later when the team visited Columbus.
And this year’s OSU team is rolling as well, with a 11-2 record and a number eight ranking. I had a chance to catch last night’s OSU vs. Nebraska game on TV before the Illini game came on, and, granted, they were playing Nebraska, but they still excelled in pretty much every aspect of the game. One thing I saw that worried me is that the Bucks capitalized on second chances (14 second chance points), and the Illini gave Purdue plenty of second chances last night. It also helps when DeShaun Thomas outscores the opposition on his own in the first half (18-17)…and when Sam Thompson has OMG dunks like this one.
One thing to keep an eye on with OSU, though, is their free throw shooting. They shot 48% vs. Chicago state, 39% vs. Nebraska, and are at 68% for the season. If Saturday’s game comes down to FTs, the Illini might be able to take advantage. Alas, I can’t in good conscience pick the Illini in this one.
MY PREDICTION: Ohio State 85, Illinois 74
So you know the drill by now. Leave a comment below or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org ) with your score prediction for the OSU game. Predictions are due by 1:15 Saturday. A reminder that whoever is the best prognosticator at the midway point of the Big Ten season wins tickets to the Indiana game. The top criteria for choosing a winner is number of games correctly picked. The more you pick, the better chance you have to win…so if you’re on the fence, get in the game now! Also be aware that a correctly predicted score could be used as a tiebreaker, so it’s in your interest to pick a reasonable outcome (i.e. picking a 100-2 score, as much as we’d all love to see it happen, isn’t going to do you any favors). So get pickin’…and tell your friends. This blog’s previous curator Tom Young told me that we had 80 pickers at one point. I’d love to get that type of participation…and so does Buck I Guy over there.
Other random thoughts…
- Just when you thought things were dying down at Penn State, the Pennsylvania governor brings a lawsuit against the NCAA over penalties from the Sandusky scandal. Conveniently, federal judge in Illinois Mike McCuskey made an appearance on WDWS today  to talk about how silly the whole thing is.
- Has anyone figured out why Big Ten football teams flop in the postseason? The B1G was 2-5 in bowl games this year and is 15-28 going back to the 2007-08 season.
- One of my favorite things about this time of year are the “year in review” video packages put out by ESPN. They are always very well done year in and year out. Check out a couple examples here  and here .
COMING UP NEXT TIME: Ohio State Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Minnesota Predictions
[Burgundy photo via IMDB, Thompson audio via ohiostatebuckeyes.com, Buck I Guy photo via elevenwarriors.com]