It’s safe to say the Illini believe in themselves and their last three games are proof positive that confidence can and does make a difference. After a stunning win against number one Indiana last Thursday 74-72, 18th ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers welcomed, what they envisioned was an overly confident Illinois team that was coming off a huge win, to Williams’ Arena looking to give them a reality check. In case you missed the headlines, it ended poorly for Minnesota in a 53-57 loss.
Fast forward to Wednesday night — Champaign, Illinois, 13,464 fans crammed into Assembly Hall to watch the red hot Illini try to end an 8 game losing streak against a struggling Purdue Boilermakers team; and end it they did to the tune of a 79-59 rout. By the end of the first half, the game was out of hand for the Boilermakers at 34-29. Senior guard DJ Richardson (1) had already scratched out 7 of his would be 18 points. Richardson, who wasn’t great from the field at 4-11 and 2-8 from 3-point range, went 8-8 on his free throw attempts.
The second half brought the other 7 points Tracy Abrams (13) contributed. Abrams was 4-9 from the field hitting 2 of his 4 3-point attempts, and went 3-4 from the foul line. Boilermakers’ coach Matt Painter, earned two technical fouls with 8:08 left in the second half after he’d apparently had enough of his big center A.J. Hammons getting “wailed on.” Painter could be seen passionately providing the officiating staff with his opinion on the job they were doing. Despite them politely declining his input with an initial technical foul, Painter felt they needed to hear it anyway and earned himself a second technical as well as a personal escort off the court.
Painter commented on the night after the game saying “You get to that certain point, you want your team to play harder, you want your team to embrace the physicality of the game, and they weren’t.” He went on to say that A.J. Hammons, who has not been consistent down low, might be the team’s most consistent player. Painter is very obviously disappointed with his team’s play this season and told reporters “I’m tired of hearing about the fact that we’re young, you know I’m tired of hearing that. They’re 18-19 years old, they’ve play major college basketball here for 3-4 months. It’s not that big a deal. It really isn’t. It’s a young game. You just can’t be immature; we’re immature.”
Illinois improves to 18-8 on the year (5-7 in the Big 10), and gets ready to travel to the Welsh-Ryan Arena and take on the Northwestern University Wildcats who are 13-11 (4-7 Big 10).