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Boilers set to pay visit to suddenly hot Illini

The Big Number

The Illini have made 202 3-pointers this season, the most in the Big Ten. Illinois — shooting 33.6 percent from deep, eighth in the conference — averages 8.1 3s made per game, behind only Michigan (8.3). Purdue is last at 4.0.

The Bonus

Matt Painter has continued to talk about Purdue’s decision-making, including turnovers and shot selection. Poor shots allow opponents to get out in transition more and set up the Boilermakers to “get behind plays” more, he said. He also called out the team’s two most experienced players, senior D.J. Byrd (in just 22 foul-plagued minutes) and junior Terone Johnson, for committing four and five turnovers, respectively, against Michigan State — by themselves accounting for a total last season’s entire team typically would commit in a game.

“You’re just not going to beat a Top 10 team in the country that way, I don’t care where you play the game,” Painter said.

Updated: March 14, 2013 6:48AM



When Purdue knocked off then-No. 11 Illinois 68-61 on Jan. 2 at Mackey Arena in a Big Ten opener, the Illini were one of the hottest teams around.

They went through a downturn, but seem to be back on the upswing after back-to-back wins against ranked opponents. Illinois followed up its last-second stunner against No. 1 Indiana with Sunday’s win at then-No. 18 Minnesota, emphatically ending a run of three straight losses and six in seven games.

“They do have a lot of experience, they have guys that have played a lot of big games; that’s obviously going to help you,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose team plays Illinois on Wednesday night in Champaign. “They had a great nonconference, and they’ve had some struggles, but there’s no doubt they have experience and talent, and I think it shows. It shows a lot about them, that they’re able to face some adversity and be able to continue to push forward, and have some success.

“Our league, you’re going to continue to get opportunities with playing so many quality opponents. It’s not like you have to hold serve, now wait two to three weeks to play someone that’s going to be a big game for you.”

Given each team’s position, virtually every game qualifies as a big one at this stage of the season. The Boilermakers (12-12, 5-6 Big Ten) have yet to beat a team ahead of them in the conference standings, and though the Illini (17-8, 4-7) still trail them, it still would be a meaningful result.

“We just have to have a bunch of guys come together, keep playing hard, keep chipping away, doing the right things,” said senior swingman D.J. Byrd, who has not made in a shot in the last two games, going 0-of-6 for two points at Penn State and 0-of-1 for zero points against Michigan State, taking all 3-pointers. “Illinois, we’ve already beaten them once this year, but they’ve had some big wins, been playing really well these last couple games. So we just have to be ready and focused, and be ready to fight for a win.”

Purdue has beaten Illinois eight consecutive times, last losing on Feb. 8, 2009, at Assembly Hall. In order for the Boilermakers to extend their streak to nine, they likely will again have to contain the dynamic senior guard tandem of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, the conference’s co-player of the week. In the teams’ first game, Paul (17.3 current season average) had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, largely quiet until late; and Richardson (12.3) had seven on 3-of-10.

“It starts with respecting their ability, and not letting them get comfortable. … Just going in with a mindset of understanding their strengths as players, and try to get them to play away from them,” Painter said.

“Any time you face guys that can shoot the basketball, you just don’t want them to get into a rhythm.”

Junior guard Terone Johnson scored a career-high 25 points in the first game against the Illini, but he also pointed to defense as being key.

“The reason why we did win was because we kept them out of taking shots, or getting shots that they were comfortable taking,” he said. “That’s something we have to do the second game, even better, because they’re at home and coming off two big wins.”



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