Illinois survives slow start, holds off Boilermakers, 66-57
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) When he left the court a couple of times late Wednesday night, Illinois forward Leron Black heard standing ovations from the home crowd.
The 6-foot-7 freshman from Memphis, Tenn., had earned them.
He battled against Purdue's 7-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot A.J. Hammons much of the night, coming away with 15 points, 13 rebounds and led Illinois (13-7, 3-4) to a 66-57 win.
''The fans are crazy here. I ain't ever played before this many people in my life,'' Black said. ''It was nice.''
''Double-double - I don't even have a double-double yet,'' said impressed teammate Malcolm Hill, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
Black impressed Boilermaker coach Matt Painter, too, who spent much of the second half frustrated with Purdue's (11-8, 3-3) effort.
''I thought Leron Black was the best player on the floor and it wasn't even close,'' Painter said. ''He just played so much harder than our guys.''
Hill and Black were just two of the Illini players who scored in double figures. Kendrick Nunn scored 14 points and Nnanna Egwu 11.
The Illini survived a cold start to get the win. They shot just 28.6 percent in the first half but somehow went to the locker room with a 32-30 lead.
Illinois also relied on efficient free throw shooting while keeping the Boilermakers away from the line. Illinois was 21 of 24 while Purdue was just 4 of 9.
Jon Octeus and Raphael Davis led the Boilermakers with 14 points each.
Purdue played most of the game without leading scorer Kendall Stephens who aggravated a finger he broke earlier in the season and left after playing 12 minutes. Painter said Stephen's jump shot could have helped on a night when Illinois seemed to dare the Boilermakers to make long jumpers. They were 5-21 from 3-point range. Purdue typically only tries 17 a game.
''Sometimes we passed the ball around on offense and they just left us wide open,'' Painter said. ''We just didn't step up and knock them down.''
As the game slipped away late, Painter's frustrations showed.
He twice called his team to the sideline in the final minutes, sharply criticizing their energy and effort.
''You got something left?'' he shouted at one point.
But his counterpart, Jon Groce, seemed to feel a win was within his team's reach.
''Let's Go! Get up!'' he shouted to the crowd as the Illini dropped back on defense in one of the game's final possessions.
After the Boilermakers closed to within four at 56-52 with 3:30 to play on a 3-pointer by Davis, the Illini closed on a 10-5 run that sealed the win.
Through the game's first 15 minutes, Illinois had to wonder where points would come from.
Nunn, Ahmad Starks and Hill combined to miss their first 10 shots.
Purdue: Coming into the Wednesday's game, the road had not been kind to the Boilermakers. They had lost nine of their last 10 away from home. The only win was Saturday at Penn State.
Illinois: With a block late in the first half, Egwu broke the Illini career blocked-shots record. Deon Thomas had held the record at 177 since 1994. Egwu finished with five Wednesday, giving him a career 179.
ON THE BOARDS
Purdue had outrebounded its opponents in six straight games, averaging 8.8 a game more. That streak ended Wednesday.
Illinois, playing with a lineup that, on paper, looked like a bad matchup for 7-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot A.J. Hammons, outrebounded Purdue 43-35. The 6-7 Black's 13 boards led everyone, but Egwu added seven.
The 6-11 Egwu played much of the second half with four fouls.
Injuries took a piece out of both teams' rosters Wednesday.
While Purdue missed Stephens, Illinois was without guard Rayvonte Rice for the fifth straight game with a broken hand. He's the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Guard Aaron Cosby also missed the Purdue game with a torn retina in his left eye suffered Sunday against Indiana. He'll be out up to two weeks after having laser surgery.
Purdue hosts Iowa on Saturday.
Illinois ends a two-game home stand, travelling to Minnesota on Saturday.