Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:10 pm
Purdue 43, Illinois 38: Halftime thoughts
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — This is essentially a typical Illinois performance thus far. The Illini have defended aggressively and well on the ball, making most possessions difficult for the Boilermakers, forcing seven turnovers. Still, on the majority of trips down the floor, Purdue has found a way to get a good look at the basket. Carsen Edwards especially has been effective at getting to the basket with penetration; Illinois' perimeter defenders are not nearly athletic enough to stop him from doing so.
Edwards piled up 15 points, but Purdue has had a balanced attack, especially in the middle of the half. After looking a little flustered early, Purdue's ball movement improved tremendously as the half went on. The nature of Illinois' pressure is that it makes the Illini vulnerable to good movement without the ball and Purdue has scored several times or created good shots with well-timed backdoor cuts. At one point midway through the half, the Boilers made eight consecutive shots from the field, a good illustration of how well they've handled the Illinois pressure.
Dakota Mathias has been the beneficiary of several good rotations of the ball and he's taken advantage, putting together his best offensive half in several weeks. The senior, in his final road game, finished with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 3 for 4 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes. This is Mathias' second straight game in which he's been a major factor on offense, after a string of quiet contests. With Vince Edwards out, it's imperative Mathias steps up as a second perimeter scorer next to Carsen Edwards and he's done just that.
In total, this has been Purdue's best offensive half since at least the Michigan game. This is the offense that helped the Boilers win 19 games in a row. Turnovers weren't much of an issue until late in the half and they're shooting 57 percent from the field.
Unfortunately, as I wrote before the game, Purdue once again struggled after it got a lead. The Boilermakers led by as many as 12 at 40-28, at which point Purdue had hit back-to-back 3s and Illinois called a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Boilers went without a field goal for over three minutes, allowing the Illini to close the gap. The ball stagnated a little and Edwards' drives became more desperate than calculated, as they'd been early in the half. Playing with a lead continues to be Purdue's biggest issue.