Illini Offense in Rhythm at Right Time

Thanks to a selfless offensive effort, Illinois posted 79 points, it's most scored in Big Ten play, versus Purdue Wednesday.

CHAMPAIGN – There was no chance for a letdown Wednesday against Purdue, as Illinois snapped it's eight-game losing streak to the Boilermakers with a 79-59 dominating victory.

Illinois (18-8, 5-7) Coach John Groce first discussed his team's play on the defensive end in his postgame comments, but the Fighting Illini's offensive system operated seamlessly from the opening tip, helping to push the momentum created by last week's victories full steam ahead.

Six Illini scored at least eight points, paced by D.J. Richardson's game-high 18, as Illinois achieved it's highest point total since scoring 81 against Auburn Dec. 29.

"I was thrilled with our unselfishness," Groce said. "We're playing very unselfish right now."

Not even two technical fouls and the ejection of Purdue Coach Matt Painter in the second half, long-since relegated to verbally lashing out at the officials, could restrain the Illini attack.

And that attack was fully operational at the onset of the game.

The first half stats told the story. Eight Illini combined for 43 points in the opening period, notching 11 assists on 17 made baskets and 11 offensive rebounds leading to 13 second chance points.

Seeing the numbers accumulated on paper however doesn't do the offensive system justice.

Screens, both for and away from the ball handler, led to passes, which more often than not led to good looks at the basket. Each player on the court seemed in-sync, locked into a rhythm where forced shots or passes became rare.

"I think we're getting the ball to the right spot at the right time and, we're not really holding the ball too much," Richardson noted. "We're active. We followed the game plan and what coach tells to do."

Although 3-point shooting in the second half stunted the overall percentages, the Illini didn't live or die by long-range shots Wednesday. In place of triples, Illinois made 10 of 12 free throws and added 34 points in the paint to win pulling away.

Groce said of the shot selection: "I think we've got a great blend.

"We got the ball into the paint with pentration and some post stuff. We shared the ball, moved the ball. I thought we took what was there."

Maybe the most telling stat to evidence the offensive production, Illini scoring star Brandon Paul managed just three points while struggling with foul trouble. In place of his usual production (16.7 points per game), the Illini received 29 points from bench players, including eight from Myke Henry.

Working the system led to eight first half points from Sam McLaurin and Nnanna Egwu posted three of the Illini's first five buckets.

In sum, it was a well-rounded offensive effort against a Purdue team that held Illinois to 61 points in the teams' first matchup; a Boilermakers' win on Jan. 2.

"We're just out there playing basketball and having fun," Richardson said.


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