B1G TOURNEY PREVIEW: Illinois vs Purdue

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' matchup with Purdue in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals on Friday.

No. 12 seed Illinois (15-18) vs.

No. 4 seed Purdue (24-7)

Date & Time: March 11, 1:30 p.m. CT

Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Ind.)

TV: ESPN

Quick Hits

  • The Illini are coming off a 68-66 upset over No. 5 seed Iowa on Thursday.
  • Illinois has now won back-to-back games against Big Ten teams for the first time all season.
  • The Illini are 8-2 all-time as a double-digit seed in the Big Ten tourney.
  • Jalen Coleman-Lands broke the Illini freshman three-point record against the Hawkeyes.
  • Purdue is riding a three-game winning streak, which included home wins over Maryland and Wisconsin.
  • The Boilermakers finished conference play with a 12-6 record.
  • Illinois won 84-70 in the previous meeting back in January.

Projected Starters

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis had seven points, four assists and two turnovers against Iowa on Thursday. All seven of his points game in the first half.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands has earned the label as an elite shooter, and he buried five triples against the Hawkeyes. The Indianapolis native scored a team-high 17 points, and he added two blocks.

Kendrick Nunn (JR): Nunn made some big plays in transition on Thursday. He finished with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Hill did not have a good game against Iowa, as he posted six points (2-of-9) and five turnovers. But he made a clutch jumper at the end of the game, which vaulted the Illini to victory.

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan provided a huge offensive spark in the first half with 12 points in 15 minutes. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, as he continues to be a crucial piece to the Illini offense.

Bench

Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke finished with six points, three rebounds and three assists on Thursday in 18 minutes of action. His regained confidence in his jumper has been a major asset for the Orange and Blue.

Jaylon Tate (JR): Tate was scoreless in 16 minutes, and he had two assists and one turnover. Many Illinois fans felt he was left out on the court too long when Iowa erased an 11-point lead late in the game.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams played just three minutes on Thursday. He didn't take a shot, and he had one rebound and one steal.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin had two points and one rebound in seven minutes of action against Iowa. His biggest play was taking a charge on Peter Jok, which sent him to the bench.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan did not play on Thursday.

Cameron Liss (SO): Liss did not play on Thursday.

Purdue Starters

P.J. Thompson (SO): Thompson is averaging 5.9 points and 2.8 assists per game this season. He is coming off his best outing of the year, in which he posted 22 points with six threes against Wisconsin in the regular season finale.

Rapheal Davis (SR): Davis has not been the same scoring threat that he was last year. He is averaging 8.6 points per game this season, while his field goal percentage has dipped from 45.5 percent to 39 percent.

Vince Edwards (SO): Edwards is a major catalyst for the Boilers. He is second on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg), third in rebounding (5.3 rpg) and first in assists (3.0 apg). He has scored in double figures in each of the last four games.

Caleb Swanigan (FR): Swanigan has lived up to the billing in his freshman season. He is averaging 10.4 points, and he is third in the conference with 8.2 rebounds per game. Swanigan is coming off a career-high with 27 points against Wisconsin.

A.J. Hammons (SR): The first-team All-Big Ten big man has had a huge season with 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Hammons has scored in double figures in 17 of the 18 games against Big Ten opponents this year, and he closed out the regular season with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Get Hill going early. If someone would have told John Groce that Hill was going to score six points against Iowa, he probably would have thought his team was heading back to Champaign on Thursday. But Hill's teammates picked him up offensively, and they gave him an opportunity to hit the biggest shot of the game. Hill was smiling from ear to ear after the victory, but he wasn't hesitant in saying that he played "an awful game". Expect him to come out with some added motivation and sense of urgency on Friday. Hill went off for 30 points against the Boilers in the upset back in January, as he and Nunn combined for 52 points. The Illini will need their best players to be their best.

2. Pack it in once again. Illinois' dynamic duo was a prime reason why they handled Purdue in the previous meeting, but their defensive plan against the Boilers was equally as crucial. Groce elected to use a mix of pack-line defense and zone to clog the middle and limit Purdue daunting frontcourt. The game plan paid huge dividends. Purdue is second in the conference in rebounding margin, while Illinois is second to last. But the Illini limited the rebounding deficit to six back in January, while Purdue was a modest plus-10 with points in the paint. Illinois will need more of the same. They gave up 16 offensive rebounds against Iowa on Thursday. They'll need to be much better in this one, although it helps that Purdue is not a great jump-shooting team. Making the Boilers score with jumpers was key in Illinois' win over them the first time.

3. Fight through fatigue. Playing three games in three days is not an easy task, especially when the opponents get tougher as the days go on. Illinois does have the luxury of riding into this game with confidence and momentum. There's no question that having a game before Thursday's clash helped them. In fact, both teams that played on Wednesday won on Thursday. Now, the Illini will play another team that will be suiting up for the first time in the tournament. That may play into Illinois' favor in the beginning, but it will be important to see if they run low on fumes during the grind of the second half. If the Illini can effectively fight through it, they will be in this game at the end.

Prediction

There's no question this is a game that Illinois can win. They had a perfect game plan for the Boilers the first time around, and the Illini are feeling good about themselves right now. They have displayed supreme effort and toughness on the defensive end. Offensively, their execution has turned up a notch and guys are making shots. This doesn't look like the same Illini team that limped through the regular season. But Purdue has been playing very well of late, and their fresh-bodied interior will likely wear down the Illini late in the game.

Purdue 72, Illinois 67


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