Klee: Illini are toast on New Year's Eve
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — If Purdue star Robbie Hummel was beating Illinois all by himself, perhaps that would be understandable.
He's an All-Big Ten type. The same would be true if it were JaJuan Johnson or E'Twaun Moore getting busy on the Illini. Those studs are clearing NBA paychecks.
But it wasn't the usual suspects leading Purdue to a 75-60 beatdown of Illinois in front of 14,041 at Mackey Arena on Saturday. It was the other guys, the guys that Rivals and Scout forgot, who are becoming players while the Illini's former high school stars find their way.
"These guys, it seems like they always play well against us," UI junior D.J. Richardson said afterward.
So much for recruiting rankings, huh?
Purdue's sixth straight win against Illinois was the latest example of how pre-college hype means nothing if the results don't follow.
Illini fans continue to wait for that one shining moment when the stars next to their names — Wasn't he a four-star recruit? — translate into consistent stars on the court. Illinois (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) is winning the July battles; January and February are proving to be another matter.
Hummel was held to five points, a pedestrian performance. But the Purdue bench — with underclassmen like Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson and Travis Carroll — outscored the Illinois bench 36-13. It was the third straight game Purdue's reserves hit for 36. It was the eighth time in nine games the Illini reserves have been outscored.
Meanwhile, the Illini's future pro, Meyers Leonard, was awarded just four shot attempts. He figured to be a mismatch for Purdue's shaky frontcourt but proved to be a non-factor.
"We missed him three or four times on ball screens where he was at the hoop and people didn't make the right reads," Weber said.
Thing is, winning at Purdue (12-3, 2-0), in front of a rambunctious crowd that stuck around for an hour to get Hummel's autograph, didn't figure to be easy. The Boilers have won 26 straight at Mackey. But it was the first time this season the Illini weren't competitive against players that shouldn't be better than their own.
"They compete and play hard. Matt (Painter) gets them to do that all the time," Weber said of their struggles against Purdue. "They seem to have guys that step up and make plays that normally don't."
Purdue ripped off runs of 18-0 and 36-7 to throw a wet towel on any New Year's celebrations the Illini had in store.
"The first five minutes of the second half have been one of our weaknesses since I've been at the U of I," said Richardson, who had 15 points.
"They kind of just took it to us," added Brandon Paul, who led all scorers with 17.