PREVIEW: Illinois vs Purdue

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' return home against Purdue on Sunday.

Illinois (8-8, 0-3) vs.

No. 20 Purdue (14-2, 2-1)

Date & Time: Jan. 10, 5 p.m. CT

Location: State Farm Center (Champaign, Ill.)

TV: BTN

Quick Hits

  • Purdue comes in at No. 20 in the AP Top 25 and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
  • The Boilermakers defeated Michigan 87-70 in their last game on Thursday in West Lafayette.
  • Purdue is No. 1 in the country in defensive efficiency, and they are ninth in rebounding margin.
  • The Boilermakers are 10-3 against the Illini since 2009, and they won the last meeting 63-58 in March 2015.
  • Illinois is 86-98 all-time against Purdue, and 2-3 under John Groce.
  • The Illini have lost both games against the KenPom top-50 at the State Farm Center this season.
  • Illinois' 25-point loss at Michigan State on Thursday tied the largest margin of defeat during Groce's tenure.

Projected Starters

Jaylon Tate (JR): Tate had two points, two assists and two turnovers in 20 minutes at Michigan State. He has started eight straight games at point guard, although Khalid Lewis continues to look like the best option on the roster.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands finished with six points in 22 minutes on Thursday, while going 0-of-4 from deep. That ended a five-game streak of hitting at least one three-pointer.

Kendrick Nunn (JR): Nunn did not make the trip to East Lansing due to the birth of his son. The junior guard leads the Illini with 18.5 points per game, and he has scored in double figures in every game he has played in this season.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Hill had 10 points and six rebounds against Michigan State. However, he played a season-low 23 minutes after picking up two fouls early on. Hill is shooting under 33 percent from the field during Big Ten play.

Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke got beat up down low on Thursday, as the Spartans registered 50 points in the paint. The redshirt freshman finished with five points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of action.

Bench

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan posted a career-high 15 points against Michigan State, while scoring 11 points from the free throw line. But the big man has just four rebounds in 60 minutes during Big Ten play.

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis was one of the lone bright spots on Thursday, as he totaled eight points, four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in his return from the mumps. The fifth-year senior has posted 18 points, 20 assists and just three turnovers combined in his last four games.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan was scoreless in 23 minutes against Michigan State. But he did make some defensive plays with one block, one steal and two defensive rebounds.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams had a career-high five points in 18 minutes during the blowout loss on Thursday. He is 5-of-20 from the field on the season.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin played seven minutes and hit a three-pointer against the Spartans. He has made his last three attempts from deep, which puts him at 22.7 percent from three this year.

Cameron Liss (SO): Liss played two minutes at Michigan State in his first appearance of the season.

Purdue Starters

Johnny Hill (GR): Hill posted 10 points and two assists against Michigan on Thursday, as he scored in double figures for the third time this year. The fifth-year senior is averaging 5.7 points and 2.7 assists per game.

Rapheal Davis (SR): The do-it-all guard had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds against the Wolverines. Davis is averaging 10.3 points per game, while shooting a career-high 42.1 percent from three this season.

Vince Edwards (SO): Edwards had 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals on Thursday. Like Davis, this 6-foot-7 forward can hurt you in a variety of ways.

Caleb Swanigan (FR): Swanigan has the best case of anyone for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The former McDonald's All-American is averaging 10 points and a league-leading 8.8 rebounds per game.

A.J. Hammons (SR): How deep is Purdue down low? Hammons may be a first-team All-Big Ten selection, and he made his first start of the season on Thursday against Michigan. The senior big man is averaging 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Come ready to fight. This is a typical hard-nosed, smash-mouth Purdue basketball team. On top of that, they have an atypical amount of size and overall talent. The short-handed Illini were a punching bag in East Lansing on Thursday. They'll need to bring their boxing gloves in this one to avoid something similar. Playing physical may not fit Illinois' current personnel, but they know they have to find a way around that. The Illini came to fight in their battle against Ohio State. Groce said their other two Big Ten games left more to be desired in that category. For a team that hasn't been able to control a number of factors this season, they can control their effort and toughness level.

2. Get hot from three. The deep ball can be an equalizer in college basketball, and that is probably Illinois' best hope in this one. The Illini were just 2-of-15 from three against Michigan State on Thursday, and the likely result followed suit. This is a jump-shooting team with Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black sidelined. Purdue has the most efficient defense in the country, and their size makes it a nightmare to score in the lane. Illinois needs some threes to fall early and often to have a chance. On the bright side, they'll have their best three-point shooter back on the floor with Nunn (41.7 percent).

3. Don't give up 60 in the paint. The Illini were demolished down low by the Spartans, who outscored Illinois 50-to-20 in the paint. There was nothing the Orange and Blue could do to stop it. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers are even better in the frontcourt. Purdue outscored Michigan 42-to-18 with points in the paint on Thursday. That is the same Wolverines squad who posted 38 points in the paint against the Illini in the Big Ten opener. That spells danger of seismic proportions.

Prediction

Mixing a glaring weakness against a dominant strength is a bad recipe, but that's what the Illini are looking at down low on Sunday. The Boilermakers are a potential Final Four team this season, while the Illini aren't even guaranteed a spot in the NIT. According to the KenPom rankings, Purdue (No. 4) is the toughest team on Illinois' schedule. Playing at home and having Nunn back are positives for the Illini. But they likely won't be enough to prevent the inevitable.

Purdue 84, Illinois 66


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