College/Prep Sports Reporter
Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).
Player of the game
Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu
So many options for the Illini after Tuesday’s win at Purdue. Kofi Cockburn had his own double-double and Trent Frazier was lights out from three-point range, but when plays needed to be made it was Dosunmu making them. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard put up his first double-double with 18 points and a career-high 11 assists (several of them lobs to Cockburn).
Illinois A+ | Purdue D-
Dosunmu didn’t make the Illini’s win happen himself. Frazier hit a pair of early three-pointers, finished 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and put up a season-high 21 points. The junior guard did commit his first two turnovers since Dec. 21, but his scoring and defense against the Boilermakers’ Sasha Stefanovic more than evened out the brief ball security issues.
Illinois A+ | Purdue D
Cockburn wound up leading the Illini with a game-high 22 points. His 15 rebounds (also a game-high) made for his eighth double-double of the season and helped Illinois win the rebounding battle 37-19. Giorgi Bezhanishvili actually playing in the second half after early foul trouble made a difference, too, as he was the fourth Illini in double figures with 10 points.
Illinois C | Purdue C
Illini coach Brad Underwood shortened his rotation even more against Purdue. Out of necessity. While he could have gone deeper on his bench after Alan Griffin’s ejection, Underwood opted not to. Still, Andres Feliz was a steady presence in his sixth man role. The Boilermakers’ bench wasn’t all that much more productive.
Illinois A | Purdue D
Best win of the season? That argument can be made for the Illini even with a victory against a then-ranked Michigan team in early December. Illinois was as solid defensively as it has been all season, but its offensive efficiency was off the charts in the second half to take down Purdue.
Illinois again did what few teams in the Big Ten have accomplished this season — win on the road. Same stingy defense. Hyper efficient second half offense. It all added up to a 17-point victory at Mackey Arena.
WHAT IT MEANS
Who had Illinois ranked with 14 wins, ranked in the AP Top 25 and sitting in solo second place in the next-to-last week of January? Anybody? Winning at Purdue means Illinois is a legit Big Ten contender.
The Illini will try and make it three Big Ten road wins Saturday at Michigan. Like in the rematch with Purdue, the Illini have already topped the Wolverines this season. Doing so again doesn’t seem like a stretch at the moment.
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