Purdue 66, Illinois 58 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — A.J. Hammons scored a game-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds in leading the Boilermakers to their ninth win against the Illini in 10 tries.
Ronnie Johnson added 13 points and older brother Terone chipped in with 10 for Purdue (12-5, 2-2 Big Ten), which out-rebounded Illinois 23 in the second hald and 42-28 overall.
Illinois was led by Tracy Abrams' 13 points and five assists. Rayvonte Rice (seven rebounds) and Joseph Bertrand each scored 11 for the Illini (13-5, 2-3).
Purdue 44, Illinois 43 — 11:52 second half
John Groce has been going offense for defense with Jon Ekey and Malcolm Hill. Hill’s playing offense and Ekey playing defense.
Every screen Illinois sets, Matt Painter yells “That’s illegal!” Not sure that Illinois has been called for an illegal screen yet, but Painter is working for one.
Kendall Stephens can really shoot it and he’s not shy with it either.
Nnanna Egwu came out of the halftime locker room with some cotton in his nose. He then made a nice block on an A.J. Hammons shot forcing a held-ball call.
Illinois lost Basil Smotherman on the baseline a couple of times in a short period and he beat them for layups. Once in the halfcourt and once in transition.
Kendrick Nunn had a strong drive to the basket on the last possession before the under-12. Looked like he got hammered, but no call. Ted Valentine says it was all ball.
Paul Klee checks in from Denver. No surprise, he’s not working. Klee is prepping for Sunday’s AFC title game between the Broncos and the Patriots. He’s going to stalk Tom Brady when Brady arrives at the team hotel at 8 p.m. Friday.
Tight deadline, I’ve got to get rolling.
Illinois 33, Purdue 29 — HALFTIME
Mark Whitehead and Gene Steratore were involved in a conversation with Matt Painter at the last media timeout. Painter was complaining about fouls. Groce wanted to know what was going on. He had separate talks with Steratore and Whitehead.
Ted Valentine came in to get a part of the action.
Tracy Abrams had nine of Illinois’ last 14 points as the Illini closed the half on a 14-2 run.
Dustin Ford was as animated as I’ve ever seen him after Maverick Morgan defended the heck out of A.J. Hammons on a late possession. That’s saying something because Dustin is always fired up.
He’s a proud big-man coach right now.
When Groce subbed Rice out midway through the half, he told the bench, “We’ve got to rest him, but he’s got to stay loose.”
When Rice came to the bench, he said “Good job, stay loose.”
Champaign’s Jay Simpson scored his first bucket on a putback. It was Purdue’s third look on that particular possession.
Rice has bene talking trash to Simpson when given the chance. They’re friends.
A guy named Elliot made a layup, free throw and a three-pointer in 45 seconds to win $500 in tires at CarX. The place went nuts as he finally made the three at the buzzer. He got a high-five from Mark Whitehead.
Bertrand passed up an open three-pointer. “I don’t like that,” Groce said.
The Illinois bench was feverishly calling for a timeout when Bertrand dove on the floor for a loose ball. They didn’t get it, but Malcolm Hill emerged with it and made a nifty layup.
Illinois shot 13 for 31 (41.9 percent) from the floor and 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) from long range.
Abrams leads the way with 11 and Rice has 10. Malcolm Hill had seven points and leads the team with five rebounds.
Purdue shot 13 for 35 (37.1 percent) from the floor and 1 for 11 (9.1 percent) from deep.
Hammons has eight points while four other players have scored four.
Illinois won the rebounding battle 21-19. The Illini turned it over seven times. Purdue three.
Purdue 15, Illinois 14 — 11:39 first half
Joseph Bertrand made Illinois’ first shot of the night, a running layup. That’s progress.
Rayvonte Rice scored on a drive to the bucket soon thereafter.
Early in the game I heard “MOOOOOOVE, MOOOOOVE!” It came from Matt Painter and sounded so much like Bruce Weber. Painter worked for Weber for a stint and replaced him at Southern Illinois.
Nnanna Egwu was fed in the post early. “I like that, I like that,” a fan behind me yelled. Nnanna missed to contested short hook.
Malcolm Hill with a nice pull-up jumper. He looked confident taking it. Young Malcolm has five early points for the Illini.
Steve Kelly has been predicting a breakout for Hill. He might be on to something.
The Illinois bench is wanting some moving screens called on Purdue on the perimeter.
Tracy Abrams and Ronnie Johnson got tangled up under the basket. It didn’t escalate much further.
The Illinois bench is also calling for fouls on Purdue at the other end where they’re getting physical defensively with the guards. It’s what Purdue has done for a long time.
There was an audible groan from the crowd here when Nnanna Egwu let a three-pointer fly just before the under-12 timeout.
Purdue (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) at Illinois (13-4, 2-2) — TIPOFF (BTN)
Rayvonte Rice will be in the Illinois starting lineup tonight. He’ll be joined by Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu. Rice had been a game-time decision. Well, it’s game time and he’s playing.
Purdue will go with Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Basil Smotherman, A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis.
Champaign’s Jay Simpson will come off the bench. He’s started six times this season.
I just spoke with Jay’s mom, she says there are close to 30 people here, friends and family, to see Simpson play his first game against the hometown school tonight.
Looks like there will be a pretty good crowd tonight. There aren’t any gaping holes of empty seats in Section C as of right now.
Sherika Ellison did a fantastic job with the National Anthem. She got a great hand and a handshake from John Groce.
Purdue (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) at Illinois (13-4, 2-2) — 8 p.m. BTN
Spent a few minutes with former Purdue standout Brian Cardinal a little bit ago. His young son Bryson and his wife Danielle are here with him. Bryson is wearing an Illinois hoodie. Looks like Grandpa dressed him today.
Brian says he made sure Bryson wore a Purdue scarf tonight on the way to the State Farm Center.
Danielle is wearing black and gold. We’ll have more from Brian Cardinal in tomorrow’s coverage.
One of your officials tonight is Gene Steratore. Busy week for Steratore, he’ll be the referee in Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and 49ers in Seattle. Steratore’s crew’s rep in football is to let them play, they called the fewest pass interference penalties this season. We’ll see how that translates out here tonight on the basketball court.
John Groce mentioned earlier this week that in his opinion, and he stressed repeatedly that this was just his own opinion, that the games have been called differently during conference play than they were in November and December. He’s not the only coach saying that. We’ll see if that changes at all in the coming weeks.
It’s still cold inside this building, the one night I decided not to wear some sort of sweater.
Rayvonte Rice once again joined Illinois when the team took the court about a half hour before tipoff for the layup lines and such. So far, he’s done everything the rest of the players have done.
The students still aren’t back in school, so you’ll have regular fans manning the Orange Krush seats under the South basket.
Purdue (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) at Illinois (13-4, 2-2) — 8 p.m. BTN
Good evening from a cold State Farm Center where Illinois will look to end a two-game losing skid against Matt Painter’s Boilermakers.
The big news today is the availability of Rayvonte Rice. There’s been no official word yet, but my understanding is he will play tonight. Rice is dealing with an adductor strain, that’s primarily in the groin area. It can be painful and the Illinois sports medicine staff has been working around the clock the last couple of days to help him recover from it as quickly as possible.
Rice made his way onto the court a little later than the rest of his teammates. He had a bounce in his step, but it was hard to tell how comfortable he was feeling watching him take jumpers and such.
He will likely give it a go and see what he’s able to do.
Jamall Walker arrived on the court early to go through his own individual workout before the game. He was running so fast his shoes kept coming untied. He was joined later by Ahmad Starks and another player that looked completely unfamiliar to me. His name is Tommy Freeman, he was a forward at Ohio when John Groce and staff were there.
Freeman is from Muncie, Ind., and he once shot 47.7 percent from three-point range as a senior for the Bobcats in 2009-10. He went through the workout with Starks and Walker.
Darius Paul went through a workout with Dustin Ford.
Malcolm Hill, Jaylon Tate and Joseph Bertrand were the first Illinois players to take the court tonight.
They’re wearing white uniforms tonight. Purdue will wear the road blacks.
Loren Tate just informed me that Purdue had a 13-game winning streak over Illinois starting in 1967, Harry Combs’ last season and ending with Lou Henson’s first year. That spanned four coaches.
Former Purdue great Brian Cardinal is expected to be in attendance tonight. He went 9-0 against the Illini. The Tolono Unity product, of course, is the son of Mr. Illini Rod Cardinal.
A bomb-sniffing dog rolled through at about 6:15. I feel safe. I just wish it would warm up in here.
Mike LaTulip is in street clothes tonight. He still hasn’t been cleared from his concussion.
Going to try to get some work done here for tomorrow’s paper. Be back with another update shortly.