WEST LAFAYETTE – The first time Purdue played Illinois this season, the Boilermakers lost by 26. The teams' second matchup Tuesday night at Mackey Arena did not go much better for the Boilermakers.
Illinois center Kofi Cockburn scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, the 21st-ranked Fighting Illini nearly doubled Purdue's rebounding total and the Boilermakers fell 79-62, snapping a 15-game Big Ten home winning streak, the second-longest in the history of Mackey Arena.
Nojel Eastern led Purdue with 14 points, matching the season-high he set Saturday against Maryland, while Trevion Williams added 12 points.
After the loss, their fourth in five games, all the Boilermakers (10-9, 3-5 Big Ten) wanted to talk about was their team's fight, or lack thereof, compared to Illinois (14-5, 6-2).
“We just got out-toughed,” said center Matt Haarms, who had 10 points and six rebounds. “It's that easy. You've gotta hit a guy on rebounds and we failed to do that. They've got a guy who's 7-foot, 290 (pounds), so he's going to get those rebounds. That's what happened.”
That guy was Cockburn, who added three blocks to his totals. He had nine rebounds in the first half to just eight for the entire Purdue team, but the Boilermakers still led 30-29 at the break thanks to a parade of free throws.
The key stretch came in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Illinois' offense caught fire and Purdue seemed unable to do anything to stop the bleeding.
The Illini hit 11 of their first 12 shots of the second half, including one stretch of nine in a row. Two of those were 3-pointers from guard Trent Frazier, who had a season-high 21 points. By the time the dust settled, Illinois led 60-45 and Purdue never got closer than nine down the stretch.
“(The Illini) were just better at what they did,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the difference in the second half. “I thought they were great in the second half. We were very fortunate to have a lead at half the way they dominated us on the glass.
“They didn't do anything differently (in the second half), they just executed better. ... You've gotta give those guys credit.”
Illinois shot 75% in the second half after hitting only 41% from the field in the first half.
The Illini won the rebounding battle 37-19 and held Purdue to just 41% shooting for the game. It was an improvement from the grisly 25% the Boilers shot in the first matchup, but not nearly enough to overcome the second-half onslaught and Cockburn's physical play inside.
“They're really physical defensively and we just really didn't match it,” said guard Sasha Stefanovic, who had nine points, just two in the second half. “We didn't really execute. We didn't get good shots, they kind of took us out of what we wanted to do.”
Stefanovic was involved in a tense moment in the first half. He drove to the basket for a layup and fell to the floor after making the shot. Illinois guard Alan Griffin fell partly on top of him, and as Griffin stood to run back up the court, his first step landed directly on Stefanovic's chest.
After a replay review, Griffin was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected.
Stefanovic declined to comment on the incident, while Illinois coach Brad Underwood said Griffin apologized to Stefanovic and emphasized his program does not “condone any of that.”
Illinois shot 18 for 19 at the foul line, while Purdue was 13 for 21.