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Curbelo’s heroics force overtime, No. 17 Illinois falls to No. 4 Purdue in 2OT

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Belo is back.

Brad Repplinger

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Welcome back, Andre Curbelo.

It took two overtimes, but the Illinois’ comeback fell just short on Monday afternoon as Purdue handed the Illini their first conference loss of the season in a thrilling 96-88 matinee at State Farm Center.

Despite late heroics from the sophomore guard to force the first and second overtimes, the Boilermakers were too much for the Illini in the second overtime period.

But it was a similar story early on for the 11 a.m. start when it took more than three minutes for Illinois to get its first basket.

The Illini got their spark at the first media timeout — to the pleasure of a packed State Farm Center crowd — when Illinois welcomed Curbelo back to the court for the first time since Nov. 23. There was an immediate spark from the sophomore, with his first field goal coming with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half.

“He literally practiced twice,” Underwood said. “He’s in horrific shape... [but] It’s nice to have an All-American guard back. We’ll continue to work that piece in.”

In a game with plenty, Kofi Cockburn and Zach Edey was the matchup to watch. Edey scored 10 of Purdue’s first 20 points and bothered Cockburn defensively.

For Cockburn, it led to foul trouble. He picked up his third and fourth fouls three minutes into the second half, forcing him to the bench.

“We’re not going to get where we’re trying to be with [Cockburn] sitting for 30 minutes,” Underwood said.

With Cockburn in foul trouble, it was Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk playing the biggest minutes of his career off the bench. His mission was to defend Purdue’s bigs.

And his effort was the reason the game went to two overtimes.

“I thought [Bosmans-Verdonk] really played hard,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter.

The Illini’s first and only lead of the game came near the eight-minute mark in the first half, but a 17-2 Purdue run to close the half ensued. The drought included Illinois missing nine straight shots, and was broken by a pair of Cockburn free throws made with 5.7 seconds to go in the half.

The Boilermakers went to the break with an 11-point lead.

“We’ve got to be better at stopping those plays,” said head coach Brad Underwood.

The Illini rallied in the second half, thanks to a spark form Curbelo offensively and Da’Monte Williams defensively.

“I’m very very proud,” Underwood said. “We grew as a basketball team today.”

After falling behind again, Curbelo’s circus layup package unleashed an acrobatic, game-tying layup in the game’s closing seconds to tie things up for the first time since the 10:27 mark in the second half. Illinois and Purdue went into overtime tied at 69.

“I wish he would’ve stayed out,” Painter joked. “He’s a great player.”

Forty seconds into the first overtime, Cockburn picked up his fifth foul and fouled out of the contest. Bosmans-Verdonk’s defensive display was forced to continue, and it kept Illinois in the game.

“The way I help us is by playing hard,” said Bosmans-Verdonk. “I’m an energy player.”

An assist from Curbelo to Alfonso Plummer with under 19 seconds to go in the overtime period tied things up at 78 apiece — forcing double OT.

“My mindset was to stay focused, keep shooting with confidence,” Plummer said.

While Plummer came alive in the second half and overtimes — 21 on his game-high 24 points came after halftime — late free-throw misses and a lack of a true big man allowed Purdue to secure the win in double OT.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Trent Frazier (ILL): 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 10 points, 5 rebounds
  • Andre Curbelo (ILL): 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Alfonso Plummer (ILL): 24 points, 4 rebounds
  • Jaden Ivey (PUR): 19 points, 8 rebounds, 13-of-15 free throws
  • Zack Edey (PUR): 20 points, 8 rebounds, 9-of-14 FG
  • Sasha Stefanovic (PUR): 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5-of-8 3FG
  • Trevion Williams (PUR): 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

SOUND SMART

  • Due to some foul trouble and a tough matchup, Cockburn did not record a double-double against Purdue — snapping a streak of nine straight games with a double-double. Cockburn remains two double-doubles away from tying the program-record of 41 career double-doubles.
  • Monday marks the Illini’s first home loss in conference play since Jan. 16, 2021 against Ohio State. Illinois went 365 days without dropping a game to a Big Ten team at State Farm Center.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Andre Curbelo notches his first of 20 points in his first game action since Nov. 23.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

TWEET OF THE GAME

Sounds about right.

HE SAID IT

“We run more plays than the [Dallas] Cowboys, and [Trent Frazier] knows everything that’s going on out there.” — Purdue head coach Matt Painter on Trent Frazier’s defense and IQ.

UP NEXT

The Illini continue conference play with a road contest at Maryland on Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. in College Park on FS1.