On Saturday afternoon, Purdue came into Champaign-Urbana on a mission. After losing their Big 10 opener to Iowa on the road , Purdue knew they needed a victory to right the ship. "In this league one game can turn things around," said coach Keady. The victory was shocking only because of Illinois' impressive home winning streak. With a top heavy home schedule, the Illini needed to come away with a victory and protect their floor. "It hurts, you've got to protect the home turf, it's always frustrating at this point to lose at home," said Illinois guard Dee Brown.
The Boilermakers frustrated Illinois all day long. Illinois couldn't get into their offensive sets, they settled for quick shots, and showed a minimal inside presence. The killer instinct that Big 10 championship teams show was not in the Illini. "The players have to decide, on a championship team the players have to want it as much as the coaches, and right now I don't think our players want it as much," claimed Illini coach Bruce Weber.
Weber also thinks his players are maybe too loose. "Our preparation is not very good. They are a loose group, a fun group, and they're fun to coach. But there's a time to be loose and a time to concentrate." Illinois looked bothered most of the day. It could have been Purdue's suffocating defense. "They got out and pressured us, pressure speeds you up and they sped us up," said Brown. James Augustine chipped in saying, "The answer to any question you could ask would be they out pressured us and outplayed us."
If not for Augustine, this game would have been ugly. Augustine had a game high 16 points and 12 rebounds. Augustine on the season is nearly averaging a double double. The rest of the team hasn't been so consistent. Roger Powell was bothered by foul trouble the whole game. When your leading scorer and 2nd leading rebounder contributes 0 points and 0 rebounds you're not going to win very many games. Dee Brown chipped in 14 points and Nick Smith added 10.
As bad as Illinois looked, they still had chances to win this game. Not until the 2:34 mark in the 2nd half when Deron Williams missed the front end of a one and one were the Illini really out of it. The Illini took their 1st lead in the 2nd half at the 16:30 mark on a Dee Brown 3-pointer. After that they could never get past the hump needed to put Purdue away. "We could never get a run to break their spirit. In the 2nd half we couldn't make plays, they took the lead on us and then they broke our spirit instead of us breaking theirs," said Weber.
Weber knew this one was going to be tough and tried to get it across to his players to no avail. "Right from the start we told the guys, I've seen many times in 19 years, when Gene's got his back to the wall he gets them to play at another level. It's not always who you play, it's when you play them," said Weber.
Illinois played their final game without Luther Head who was serving a 2 game suspension for off court issues. Weber was asked whether the off court issues affected the team. "It's hard on the coaches because it takes all our mental focus and exhaustion. Nobody feels worse than Luther though.
Sooner or later he has to wake up." Hopefully Illinois will wake up too.
GAME NOTES: - In attendance at the Purdue game were class of ‘04 recruit Rajon Rondo and ‘05 oral commitment Jamar Smith. - Illinois only shot 6 free throws all night.
-Illinois is still averaging 5 guys in double figures for scoring.