Rapid Reaction: Illinois Hands Purdue First Home Big Ten Loss


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue had its serve broken Tuesday night against No. 21-ranked Illinois, losing its first conference home game of the year 79-62 at Mackey Arena. It was only the eighth time a Big Ten team had won a conference road game all year in 50 tries.

This was Purdue's second loss to Illinois in 16 days, and even though it wasn't as ugly — the Illini blasted Purdue 63-37 in Champaign — it was just as painful. The Boilermakers are now 3-5 in the Big Ten and just 10-9 overall and the season seems to be starting to slip away.

Illinois, which was ranked last week for the first time in six years, is now 6-2 in the league, trailing only Michigan State, and 14-5 overall.

The Boilermakers had no answer for Illinois point guard Trent Frazier, who always seems to play his best against Purdue. The 6-foot-2 junior from Wellington, Fla., led Illinois with 21 points, making 5-of-7 3-point attempts and all six of his free throw attempts.

Freshman big man Kofi Cockburn, who has been the league's Freshman of the Week five times already this season, had his way inside, too. He had a big night, scoring 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. 

Purdue had won 15 straight Big Ten games at Mackey Arena, and that included a 29-point beatdown of Michigan State a little over a week ago and earlier league wins over Minnesota and Northwestern. But there was no Mackey magic Tuesday night.

The strangest moment of the night happened early in the first half. Illinois had a 14-7 lead, which kept the Purdue crowd relatively quiet, but then Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic drove hard to the basket and scored. Illinois reserve Alan Griffin, who had only been in the game for about three minutes,  fouled him, and while Stefanovic was on the ground, Griffin slammed his foot right into his chest. After review, Griffin was ejected.

That lit a fire in the Mackey Arena crowd, and the Boilers answered in kind, reeling off seven straight points. Griffin, who had 16 points in the earlier meeting, was missed.

Purdue's first lead of the game came on its first 3-point attempt with 4:15 left in the half. Aaron Wheeler connected to give Purdue a 25-22 lead. Eric Hunter added another with 18 seconds left in the half to give the Boilermakers a 30-29 lead at the turn, but those were their only two attempts of the half.

It's very rare to see a team get outrebounded 20-8 in a half and still be leading, but Purdue somehow got away with that. Kofi Cockburn, Illinois' 7-foot, 290-pound freshman center, was a load, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds in the first half alone.

For the game, Purdue was outrebounded 37-19. Purdue shot 41 percent from the field and  made just 3-of-8 3-pointers all night,

Since winning at home is so critical in the Big Ten, that puts added pressure on Friday night's home game against Wisconsin. Purdue can't afford to fall any further behind now.  

Purdue was led Nojel Eastern, who had 14 points. Trevion Williams had 12, and Matt Haarms 11.