Illinois (13-3, 6-0) gets its biggest test in the Big Ten when the Purdue Boilermakers (14-2, 3-2) visit Champaign on Monday morning. The Illini are riding a perfect record in the conference and are coming off a big home win against Michigan on Friday night.
Matchups to Watch For
After all the smack talk, Hunter Dickinson failed to suit up Friday night due to COVID-19. Kofi Cockburn dominated the game in his absence with another 20-point, 10-rebound game, but he will get tested against Purdue.
Zach Edey and Trevion Williams will both be tasked to keep Kofi in check on the boards and offensively. Edey is a 7-foot-4 sophomore center and is averaging 15.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, while Williams, a Chicago native, is averaging 13.3 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. Last year, Williams led the charge against the Illini, scoring a game-high 14 points and adding 8 rebounds. With a two-pronged attack, Cockburn will have his hands full and will need to play his A-game on both sides of the ball. Edey and Williams account for 50% of all rebounds for the Boilermakers and will keep Kofi busy all game.
The Trent Frazier vs. Jaden Ivey matchup will also be one to watch. While Ivey played off the bench last year and didn't score in the Boilermakers' loss to Illinois, Ivey is now the leading scorer for Purdue, with 16.3 points per game. He has an effective field goal percentage of 59.7% and is shooting 44% from beyond the arc. If anybody can match Frazier’s hot hand, it will be Ivey.
It will be a packed house early on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Champaign.
It will be loud, it will be tense and Illinois is going to have to put up a hell of a fight. I didn't even mention Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic (12.2 PPG), because, in all honesty, I have no clue who will be guarding him?
Alfonso Plummer, Jacob Grandison, Da’Monte Williams, and Coleman Hawkins will have to shake off their rust and play their best games of the season. With Curbelo most likely out for the game and Illinois’ best players hung up in tough matchups, this game will be on the supporting cast if the Illini want to win.
It has been done. Purdue lost to Wisconsin and Rutgers by 5 points and 2 points, respectively. Wisconsin had a 37-point game from Johnny Davis and Rutgers had 4 starters in double figures (and a half-court buzzer beater). Edey, Williams, and Ivey scored in double figures each game and will look to do the same Monday morning.
Which Illinois team shows up on Monday will be the key. After the COVID-19 pause, Illinois looked a bit rusty but still pulled out now four conference wins. Illinois can’t come out flat this game if they want to win. It’s going to require a team effort to keep the streak going and beat Purdue.