The Boilermakers had a plan. Despite a miserable start to the season, they thought if they could play airtight defense and chase Illinois's outstanding offensive players everywhere on the court, they could compete and possibly give the Illini their first defeat of the season.
For 20 minutes, their plan worked to perfection. Purdue hit 12 of its first 17 shots and was led by Matt Kiefer, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half.
Purdue played so well in the first half that it opened up a nine-point lead with 4:59 left in the first half. The Illini started to cut into the lead, but when Bryant Dillon connected on two free throws just before halftime, the Boilermakers had a 39-33 halftime lead.
"In the first half, we gave no separation to their guys when they went around screens," Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "We stayed right on their tails and did a good job of guarding them."
Unfortunately, that's where the fun ended for Purdue.
After the Boilermakers scored the first two points of the second half, Illinois went on a 21-4 run and took charge of the game. Illinois guard Dee Brown hit three three-pointers during the run and sensed that Purdue's defense was somewhat less intense over the last 20 minutes.
"I think they forgot about me," Brown said. "I was just out there playing defense and getting loose balls. I had no shots in the first half and I was trying to play my role."
Perhaps the first-half performance against the No. 1 team in the country will give Purdue the confidence needed to approach respectability from this point forward.
— The Boilermakers have major problems with their accuracy. They made 24-of-52 shots against Illinois and are shooting 39.3 percent from the field this season.
— The Boilermakers are being outscored by 6.2 points per game. That differential ranks them last in the Big Ten. Indiana is the only other Big Ten team that has been outscored overall this season.
— Despite losing to Illinois at home, Purdue leads the all-time series 85-79.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Brandon McKnight, shooting guard David Teague, power forward Gary Ware, forward Carl Landry, swingman Bryant Dillon.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's like coaching against my dad." — Head coach Bruce Weber on going up against former boss and mentor Gene Keady.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Minnesota, Jan. 12; vs. Indiana, Jan. 15
KEYS: The Boilermakers played outstanding basketball for 20 minutes in taking a halftime lead against Illinois. While they couldn't sustain that lead, they need to play the way they did in the first half against Minnesota and Indiana. If they can do that, they have a legitimate chance of winning one or both of their games this week.
ROSTER REPORT: Guard David Teague is second on the team in scoring and rebounding with 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
— Forward Carl Landry is second in the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 17.9 ppg and is shooting 61.9 percent from the field.
— Forward Matt Kiefer made 8-of-14 shots against Illinois and scored 17 points. Kiefer is averaging 11.8 ppg.
About Purdue: Tough Defense
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