CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The No. 4-ranked Purdue basketball team survived a double-overtime thriller Monday on the road, taking down No. 17 Illinois 96-88 and handing the Fighting Illini their first loss in conference play.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak against Illinois, and it was the team's first victory in Champaign since the 2017-18 season.
Senior guard Sasha Stefanovic led the way with a team-high 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting, which included five 3-pointers. Illinois star Kofi Cockburn found himself in foul trouble early, and sophomore Zach Edey center took advantage by scoring 20 points of his own without recording a turnover.
Illinois guard Alfonso Plummer scored a game-high 24 points and made six of his team’s 12 shots from the 3-point line to help keep the game close for 50 minutes of play.
“I think both teams showed a lot of poise,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I think this game just gives you confidence that you can go into a hornets nest and be up against it a couple times and find a way to make a play, or get a stop, or get a rebound, or make your free throws like we did at the end.”
Purdue looked to get Edey going early in the paint, and he opened with the first basket of the game while working against Kofi Cockburn. Edey also made his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor, notching a block and a steal in the first half.
But the Fighting Illini found a groove from the 3-point line to get back into the game. They started the contest 4-6 from deep to energize the home crowd. Illinois used the momentum to fuel a 10-0 run in the first half, taking a 24-20 lead with about seven minutes before the break.
Junior guard Isaiah Thompson ended the scoring streak by hitting the first 3-pointer of the game for Purdue. The Boilermakers were just 2-of-9 in the first half. But the shot started a 17-0 run. The Fighting Illini settled for several tough jump shots, which led to seven straight misses from beyond the arc before halftime.
Illinois ended the half with a pair of free throws from Cockburn, who tied a team-high with eight points in the period alongside senior guard Trent Frazier. The foul shots ended a seven-minute scoring drought.
Edey scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting as Purdue led 37-26 at halftime. Senior forward Trevion Williams struggled in the first 20 minutes of play, making just two of his eight shots from the floor. Both players finished the half with two fouls.
“Just being tough, being physical, being a big presence from the get-go. Not waiting for the second half,” Edey said. “That’s something I really tried to focus on today, for sure.”
In the first two minutes of the second half, Cockburn committed his third and fourth fouls of the game and was forced to resign to the bench for the majority of the period. But despite being without its best interior player, Illinois rattled off a string of three straight 3-pointers to prevent Purdue from surging ahead.
Stefanovic, after starting the game 0-2 from the 3-point line in the first half, caught fire in the second. He was 4-5 from deep coming out of the locker room. Both teams traded scores, bringing the game down to the wire in regulation.
“We’ve been in a lot of these games before, in a lot of close, late games,” Stefanovic said, who added eight rebounds in the game. “But just being able to step up and make plays. Try to make defensive plays, box out, rebounds, whatever it is — I thought we did a collectively great job of that.”
The Boilermakers struggled to stop the Fighting Illini all afternoon, and it showed in the final minutes of play. Illinois ended the second half on a 6-0 run, forcing overtime after Purdue led by as many as 11.
Sophomore guard Andre Curbelo, who missed nearly two months of play heading into the game, tied the game at 69-69 with 10 seconds to play. He finished the game with 20 points for Illinois to go along with a team-high six rebounds.
Purdue came out hot in the first overtime period, as Jaden Ivey scored the first six points for the Boilermakers. He scored 13 of his 19 points from the free-throw line, but his scoring burst was not enough to win in just a single overtime period.
The Fighting Illini matched the Boilermakers' nine points, extending the matchup to a second overtime.
“It was tough, I was trying to get a couple of breathers,” Ivey said. “That’s what you need to do. We execute all the time in practice, finishing through practice. Practices are long, too, so we just stuck with it and finished until the end.”
Stefanovic opened the second overtime with his fifth 3-pointer of the game, and Williams contributed four points and two assists to seal the game for Purdue. The senior forward finished the game with 14 points and a team-high five assists.
The Boilermakers now move to 15-2 on the season and 4-2 in the Big Ten. The team is back in action Thursday with another road matchup. Purdue is scheduled to play rival Indiana at Assembly Hall.
“I love playing in these games, whether or not my shot is falling,” Ivey said. “I just love to play in this environment and just play with my team. I just love to play, for real. We’re looking forward to this three-game stretch. We just gotta keep going.”
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