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Andre Curbelo makes long-awaited return against No. 4 Purdue

A nice addition for the top team in the Big Ten.

Evan McClintock

The Illini star hasn’t suited up since Nov. 23 in a win against Kansas State.

Andre Curbelo has missed the last two months with concussion-related issues, and his return couldn’t have come at a better time as the Illini are set to take on No. 7 Purdue.

Curbelo, the Big Ten’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, provides a completely different element to Illinois’ offense. He’s the only true ballhandler in the rotation, is capable of beating defenders off the dribble and thrives in ball screen action with big man Kofi Cockburn.

Without him at times, Illinois has struggled with pressure. Trent Frazier has largely assumed point guard duties in Curbelo’s absence with Da’Monte Williams bringing the ball up on occasion too, but it’s clear that’s neither of their preferred positions.

Cockburn has still got his even without Curbelo in the lineup, but Curbelo’s ability to attack off the dribble will open up more looks for not just Cockburn, but shooters on the perimeter too.

It’s unclear just how many minutes he’ll see in his return to action, but his presence should only make an already potent Illini offense even more lethal.