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  • Illinois guard Alan Griffin (0) fights for a rebound with Purdue forward Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 10:50 pm

Purdue beats Illinois, 73-56, 15th win in 17 games

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE –

How it Happened

From the opening tip, Illinois (10-18, 6-11 Big Ten) made it clear it wouldn't be intimidated by the environment. The Illini forced turnovers on three of Purdue's first four possessions, serving notice that they would pressure the Boilermakers all night and make the hosts work for everything they got. Illinois jumped out to an early lead, but the Boilers (21-7, 14-3) ripped off a 7-0 run behind a couple of Matt Haarms layups and a Grady Eifert 3-pointer to go in front 11-7.

Much of the middle portion of the half belonged to Illinois, however. The Illini shot uncharacteristically well from beyond the 3-point line, getting 3s from five different players in the opening half. At the same time, Purdue's reserves were struggling against the Illini's defensive pressure, missing shots from the outside and continuing to turn the ball over, which Purdue did eight times in the first half. When Andres Feliz nailed a 3 for Illinois, the visitors led 27-21 with 6:05 left in the first half and Mackey Arena was relatively silent.

That's when Carsen Edwards got going. After two rough games against Indiana and Nebraska, he relished the return to Mackey and scored five quick points on a 3-pointer and flying layup to get the Boilers back in it. Ryan Cline added a nifty fadeaway on the ensuing possession, part of 9-0 Purdue run that catapulted the Boilers back in front. Illinois wouldn't go away, however, and led 33-32 at halftime despite Purdue shooting 56 percent and the Illini 37 percent in the first half.

Purdue came out in the second half on fire. Edwards drilled a 3 on the team's first possession and then drove straight to the rim for an easy layup. After an Illinois turnover, Ryan Cline found Eifert streaking all alone for an easy layup and a 7-0 run. The spurt forced the Illini to burn a timeout with Mackey going crazy. For the first time all night, the Boilermakers had some breathing room.

Purdue held the lead until midway through the half when the Illini put together an 11-2 spurt behind four layups from four different players. Purdue struggled to rebound during this stretch, with the Illini seemingly coming up with every loose ball off a miss. Part of the problem was that Haarms was on the bench for a rest. When Feliz scored inside off an offensive rebound, the Illini had knotted the score at 48 with 9:43.

Once Illinois tied the game, Painter immediately got Haarms back in the game and Purdue was able to stem the tide. Carsen Edwards drove to the rim and scored a tough layup through contact (though no foul was called), flexing his muscles in front of the Illini after scoring. With Haarms back on the court, the rebounding troubles were mitigated somewhat and Purdue re-took control.

In the 3:26 after Illinois tied the game, the Boilermakers embarked on a game-turning 12-0 run, buoyed by five points from Edwards and four from Haarms. The sophomore big man capped the spurt with a dunk on a perfect lob pass from Nojel Eastern, putting Purdue in front 60-48 and coming close to sealing the victory. Illinois never got close down the stretch and Purdue was able to coast to a win.

Player of the Game: Matt Haarms

Edwards was excellent, but Haarms played a tremendous game in all phases. The 7-foot-3 sophomore had a career-high 21 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and added a career-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. He also blocked five shots, giving him at least four blocks in back-to-back games and four of the last seven. He came in No. 3 in the Big Ten in swats at 1.9 per contest. It was his first career 20-point game.

Facts and Figures

Purdue has won four in a row and is tied with Michigan State for the Big Ten lead at 14-3 with three games remaining. ... The Boilermakers are 14-0 at home this season and 30-1 at Mackey Arena since the start of last season. ... With the win, Purdue became just the third team in Big Ten history and first since the Boilermakers also did it in 1994-96 to win 14 conference games in three straight seasons. ... Edwards came in leading the Big Ten and 10th in the country in scoring at 23.4 points per game. He scored 23 on 8 for 14 from the field after going 7 for 40 in his last two games combined. ... Eifert, a Fort Wayne native and former Bishop Dwenger forward, scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds. ... The Illini held a 26-2 advantage in bench points. ... Purdue shot 55 percent, while Illinois struggled to 33 percent. ... Sophomore Trent Frazier, Illinois' leading scorer, sat the first five minutes of the game, reportedly because of a disciplinary issue. ... Before the game, coach Matt Painter was named one of 15 finalists for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award. With the win, Painter tied former Illinois coach Harry Combes for No. 10 on the all-time wins list among Big Ten coaches with 316.

What's Next?

The Boilermakers are back in action Saturday at Mackey Arena, when they play host to Ohio State (18-10, 8-9). The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will air on ESPN. It will be senior night for Eifert and Cline, Purdue's final home game of the season. The Boilermakers beat Ohio State 79-67 on Jan. 23 in Columbus, but the Buckeyes will be coming off an impressive 20-point win over No. 22 Iowa on Tuesday.

dsinn@jg.net