Purdue at Illinois, 8 p.m. today
Illinois (17-8, 4-7 Big Ten)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams So. 6-1 10.7
G D.J. Richardson Sr. 6-3 12.3
G Brandon Paul Sr. 6-4 17.3
F Sam McLaurin Sr. 6-8 4.1
C Nnanna Egwu So. 6-11 6.5
FYI: D.J. Richardson, who turned 22 on Monday, was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week for the first time in his career after averaging 18 points in wins against No. 1 Indiana and Minnesota.
OFF THE BENCH
G Joseph Bertrand Jr. 6-6 8.4
F Tyler Griffey Sr. 6-9 7.4
F Myke Henry So. 6-6 3.1
Purdue (12-12, 5-6 Big Ten)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Terone Johnson Jr. 6-2 12.7
G Ronnie Johnson Fr. 6-0 9.8
G Rapheal Davis Fr. 6-5 5.2
G/F D.J. Byrd Sr. 6-5 9.5
C A.J. Hammons Fr. 7-0 11.3
FYI: A product of Gary, Ind., Hammonds leads all Big Ten freshmen in points, rebounds and blocks in league play and leads all players in blocks per game (2.1) for the entire season.
OFF THE BENCH
G Anthony Johnson So. 6-3 5.5
F Donnie Hale Fr. 6-8 4.3
F Jacob Lawson So. 6-8 2.6
Site: Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign
TV: BTN — Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Tim Doyle (analyst) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Purdue leads 96-84. Last meeting — Purdue 68, Illinois 61, Jan. 2.
FYI: The Illini have three wins this season against teams that were ranked in the Top 10 at the time, marking the first time they’ve done that since the 2004-05 team beat three Top 10 opponents.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
The last time these two teams met, Illinois coach John Groce said repeatedly his team was out-toughed by the Boilermakers. That’s what Purdue teams do and Matt Painter’s squad will come to the Assembly Hall and try to get physical with the Illini to get them off their game. “We’ve got to be better in those areas, no one wants to be out-toughed, especially in our own building,” Groce said.” I think the majority of the year we’ve made a lot of toughness plays. I just thought in the last four minutes the ones Purdue made ended up being a deciding factor.”
When Groce and his staff graded the film from the Minnesota game, Sam McLaurin earned the highest defensive grade Groce has handed out in the six years he’s been grading defense. When it was announced, McLaurin’s teammates gave him a standing ovation. The coach has often said McLaurin does so many things that don’t show in the box score and he’s been a key to the resurgence and will be key tonight in slowing the improving A.J. Hammons. “I just try to win, anything I can do to win, that’s what I’m here for,” McLaurin said.
A word being thrown around the Illinois locker room these days is “maturity”. It’s at its highest level of the season right now for a number of reasons. Guys haven’t pouted about not starting and as a team they were able to regroup from the high of the Indiana win to leave Minnesota with a victory. Today is another opportunity to show that growth. “That’s a maturity thing,” Richardson said. “I kind of kept us together, kept talking through it. Coach Groce called me and told me to stay on these guys. I’ve got to be a vocal leader and I’ve done a good job of being more vocal and doing it in a positive way.”
Prediction: Illinois 68, Purdue 61
It’s been four years since the Illini last left the floor after a game against Purdue with a win. The current group of seniors was seniors in high school. For a group that tries to keep its focus forward, it’s tough to lose sight of the fact that as a program Illinois has lost eight straight to the Boilermakers. If the season is to continue on its upward trajectory, that streak needs to end. “It’s a big one for us, aside from all the tournament implications and everything else,” Tyler Griffey said. “We have yet to beat them, so we’re looking forward to it.” (N-G record: 13-12)