The 411: #7 Purdue at #25 Illinois
Winners of two in a row since the loss to Wisconsin, No. 7 Purdue takes to the road for one of its biggest games of the season, at Big Ten-unbeaten and 25th-ranked Illinois.
Keep in mind, rankings will change right around tip-off.
Date: Monday, Jan. 17, 2022
Place: The State Farm Center (Champaign, Ill.)
Time: Noon ET
Radio: Purdue Radio Network (96.5 WAZY locally)
NOTE: Those attending the game will need proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours to gain admission to the State Farm Center.
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ABOUT #7 PURDUE (14-2, 3-2 B1G)
• The Boilermakers are now second nationally in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage, per KenPom, but have also made marked improvement defensively the past two games, though the statistics might not necessarily show it.
• Purdue is fifth nationally in three-point percentage at just north of 40 percent, but the Boilermakers are shooting just under 35 percent through five Big Ten games, with Sasha Stefanovic at only 26.7 percent and Isaiah Thompson 1-of-14.
C — 15 Zach Edey (7-4, 295, So.)
15.4 PPG • 71.3% FG • 7.5 REB • 1.5 BLK
After lamenting that he didn't play with necessary toughness to start the Wisconsin game, Edey's gotten off to strong starts the past two games. His hands will be full to start this game against the most physically imposing player he'll see at the college level, Kofi Cockburn.
F — 0 Mason Gillis (6-6, 230, So.)
7.5 PPG • 3.4 REB • 56.3% FG • 55.2% 3-PT • 100% FT
Gillis has been outstanding for Purdue the past several games, with his energy on the glass, with his defensive discipline and with his marksmanship from three-point range. He and Caleb Furst will be important help defenders in this one.
G —23 Jaden Ivey (6-4, 195, So.)
16.3 PPG • 50% FG • 43.6% 3-PT • 5.0 REB • 3.1 AST • 1.3 STL
Ivey's knack for being a big-game player would be a welcomed sight for Purdue here. Illinois has some really good defensive guards, though, who'll make things tough on him. One of the best developments of the past two games for Purdue has been the sophomore's defensive progress.
G — 55 Sasha Stefanovic (6-5, 205, Sr.)
11.2 PPG • 40% 3-PT • 3.9 AST
Stefanovic hasn't shot great during Big Ten play, but brings so much value outside that element. Nevertheless, to be the best team it can be, Purdue needs its shooters finding their rhythm. He will be a marked man for Illinois defensively.
G —11 Isaiah Thompson (6-1, 160, Jr.)
5.6 PPG • 42.3% 3-PT
Speaking of, Thompson is just 1-of-14 from three-point range during Big Ten play, after shooting nearly 50 percent much of the season otherwise. There's no real rhyme or reason to it, it doesn't appear, beyond a mere rut. Purdue does need more from Thompson and Eric Hunter, though.
C — 50 Trevion Williams (6-10, 255, Sr.)
13.3 PPG • 61% FG • 8.6 REB • 3.0 AST
Williams has seemed affected at times in his career by Cockburn's size around the basket, but it'll be imperative that he really go at the Illini big man at both ends of the floor.
G — 25 Ethan Morton (6-6, 215, So.)
2.8 PPG • 2.4 AST • 42.9% 3-PT
With Illinois' ability to play four out around Cockburn, Morton's defensive versatility might come into play at Illinois, in addition to his considerable offensive value as a passer.
G — 2 Eric Hunter (6-4, 175, Sr.)
3.3 PPG • 1.7 AST
Hunter may have played his best game of the season against Nebraska, and if that's a sign of things to come, that would be an excellent development for the Boilermakers.
G — 5 Brandon Newman (6-5, 200, So.)
6.5 PPG •34.3% 3-PT • 85% FT
After sitting out the Penn State game, Newman made a pair of threes against Nebraska and did some positive things at the defensive end. We'll see what kind of opportunity he gets at Illinois.
F — 3 Caleb Furst (6-10, 230, Fr.)
5.7 PPG • 4.8 RPG • 56.4% FG • 37.5% 3-PT
The freshman looked like his early season form against Nebraska, his second game back after his bout with COVID. He was active around the rim, very good in help defense and made his only three-pointer. Again, he and Gillis are really going to be relied upon to be strong help defenders against Cockburn.
Freshmen Trey Kaufman-Renn and Brian Waddell will redshirt this season. Waddell will miss most of the season after tearing his ACL and Kaufman-Renn is now sidelined up to six weeks after undergoing foot surgery.
ABOUT #25 ILLINOIS (13-3, 6-0 B1G)
• Illinois is off to a 6-0 start in Big Ten play, but this will be its first meeting with a ranked conference opponent. Friday night's rout of Michigan came with the Wolverines severely short-handed following their COVID issues. Star Hunter Dickinson was among those who didn't play.
• The Illini are No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 79 points per game in conference play. (Purdue's third at 76.0).
Illinois is second in Big Ten play in scoring defense: 62.5.
• Thanks mostly to Cockburn, Illinois is No. 1 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, at 41 percent.
The Illini have outrebounded Big Ten opponents by an average of 16.5, more than double the margin of second-place Purdue (7.2)
• Illinois is No. 21 nationally in defensive efficiency.
• Illinois has played the past two months or so without guard Andre Curbelo due to an undisclosed health issue sustained against Kansas State, but Curbelo has reportedly returned to practice some and could be in line to return to the floor in the near term. The Illini would be very different offensively with the ball-dominant point guard.
C - 21 Kofi Cockburn (7-0, 285, Jr.)
21.9 PPG • 12.3 RPG • 60.2% FG
One of the most physically imposing and dominant players in college basketball, Cockburn is a formidable interior scoring presence and a force on the glass, averaging nearly four offensive rebounds per game.
F - 3 Jacob Grandison (6-6, 210, Sr.)
11.7 PPG • 3.9 RPG • 2.3 APG • 47.8% 3-PT • 1.2 BLK
One of three transfers on Brad Underwood's team, Illinois' swingman of a forward has been red-hot from three-point range this season. That could be a real issue for Purdue.
G - 11 Alfonso Plummer (6-1, 180, Sr.)
15.9 PPG • 40% 3-PT
The Utah transfer has been an immediate impact player for the Illini, helping soften the blow from the loss of Ayo Dosunmo.
G - 1 Trent Frazier (6-2, 175, Sr.)
13.2 PPG • 3.2 RPG • 3.4 AST • 37.6% 3-PT
Getting Frazier back for his COVID year was a game-changer for the Illini. He's an excellent defensive player and shooter who's shown he can take over games. He's averaging 17 a game over the past eight.
G - 20 Da'Monte Williams (6-3, 215, Sr.)
4.3 PPG • 5.3 RPG • 3.0 AST • 37.1% 3-PT
Another excellent perimeter defender back for his pandemic year, Williams has been one of the Big Ten's top glue guys. He's made himself into a really good shooter, too.
F - 33 Coleman Hawkins (6-10, 215, So.)
7.3 PPG • 5.4 RPG
The 4 man's height and length and energy must be accounted for around the basket.
C - 4 Omar Payne (6-10, 240, Jr.)
1.9 PPG • 2.0 RPG • 55.6% FG
The Florida transfer backs up Cockburn. He's an athlete.
G - 10 Luke Goode (6-7, 200, Fr.)
2.3 PPG • 1.8 RPG • 40% 3-PT
The freshman from Fort Wayne — a good friend of Purdue freshman Caleb Furst — is a very good shooter with great size.
IN-GAME AND POST-GAME COVERAGE
Stay dialed in to GoldandBlack.com during the game for our pre-game First Thoughts analysis. During the game, follow along with our game thread and follow @brianneubert on Twitter for additional insight.
Following the game, we'll have post-game press conference video, game coverage, analysis, our Wrap Video and Final Thoughts, plus a Gold and Black Radio podcast within a few hours of the end of the game.
Purdue needs to take the fight to Kofi Cockburn and do so without fouling. On the road, the second part of that equation might be the more difficult part, but Purdue has to keep Cockburn off the glass, make him work on defense and make him work for everything he gets.
Illinois is going to play really hard. They're going to bump, grab, maybe step on Purdue's guards, and the Boilermakers' ability to execute on offense will depend on their guards' ability to be strong with the ball and get Purdue into offense. Illinois has some excellent defensive guards.
Illinois has a bunch of really dangerous shooters, who are especially dangerous when Cockburn Is a defense's priority. Purdue's rotations are going to have to be sound and its closeouts as effective as can be, or else Illini may get hot, get the crowd going and ...
PREDICTION: PURDUE 74, ILLINOIS 72
This Is going to be Purdue's toughest Big Ten game to date, but a chance for the Boilermakers to redeem themselves for their early stumbles. Things have changed for Purdue since the Wisconsin game, perhaps building up a winning sort of performance in a game like this.
The Boilermakers are trending well defensively, and that's been their biggest issue during past Big Ten struggles.
Purdue's matchup with Kofi Cockburn will draw the most attention, but Jaden Ivey's the key in this one.
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