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No. 9 Illinois’ comeback falls short in loss to No. 1 Purdue

The Illini never led Friday.

David Pollak // TCR

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Another unsuccessful trip to the house of horrors.

Mackey Arena was the scene for a highly anticipated top-10 conference matchup Friday night — especially with Illinois coming off back-to-back 30-plus point wins.

Illinois had its back against the wall after being down 15 at halftime, but the team did not go away without a fight. Down by as much as 21 in the second half, the visitors ended up making this contest interesting.

The comeback effort — led by Marcus Domask, Quincy Guerrier and Luke Goode’s 40 second-half points — put Illinois down six with 13 seconds to play. Coleman Hawkins would drill a three to then reduce that margin to just three.

But that would be the final made basket for the Illini, and the comeback effort fell just short as the Boilermakers defended home court, 83-78.

Regardless, to see a team who is still missing arguably its best player come back the way it did is impressive.

“I’m extremely proud of our guys tonight,” said head coach Brad Underwood.

Underwood specifically praised Domask, who played the entire game, for his 26-point performance.

“I hope everybody understands how good of a player Marcus Domask is,” Underwood said. “I can’t remember the last time I played a player 40 minutes.”

Domask had a big night, but this contest was not the prettiest. Illinois had so many chances to make it even more interesting than it was.

Purdue (14-1, 3-1 Big Ten) set the tone right away, holding Illinois to just four points in the first eight minutes of the game — eerily similar to the start the last time the Illini (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) visited Mackey.

Again, like the previous matchup, Illinois showed signs of life, cutting the deficit to three with seven minutes to play in the half. A big reason for that was reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey getting into foul trouble.

This was the chance the orange and blue needed, but did not take advantage. Instead, Purdue outscored Illinois 23-15 from that point on.

“They kicked our butt during that stretch,” Underwood said. “The best player in the country isn’t in the game, you better make hay — and we did for a little bit — but you have to sustain that.”

Trey Kaufman-Renn and Mason Gillis came up big for Purdue in that stretch, combining for 12 of the 23 points. Their contributions led the home team to a 47-32 halftime advantage.

“[Kaufman-Renn] kicked our butt,” Underwood said. “Give that young man a ton of credit.”

“I’ve always thought Gillis is a stud, I love him,” Underwood added.

With all the momentum and confidence moving forward, the Boilermakers played ahead the entire second half. The Illinois comeback made the fans in Mackey sit on the edge of their seats (or stand), but ultimately it was not enough.

Nonetheless, Underwood still has the utmost confidence in his team moving forward.

“I’ve said we have really, really good players in this program and we’ll continue to be an extremely good basketball team.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

ROUGH START: As mentioned, this was what really set the game apart. Purdue got up to a 20-4 lead at the under-12 media timeout and never looked back.

The Illini gave a valiant effort getting back into it, but falling into a deficit like that early on — especially in an environment like Mackey Arena — is going to plague any team.

EDEY FOUL TROUBLE: In the span of less than 30 seconds, Zach Edey picked up two fouls in the first half.

How did Illinois respond? Not the way it should have. Edey did not play the final eight minutes of the half and Purdue still took a 15-point lead into the break.

The senior big finished Friday night’s game with 10 points and four fouls.

While Edey didn’t light up the stat sheet, Underwood had nothing but positive things to say about Purdue’s star.

“Zach is the reigning college basketball player of the year for a reason and probably will win it again this year.”

HAWKINS FOULS JONES: With 1.9 seconds to play in the first half and the home team up 12, Purdue guard Lance Jones shot a deep three that was heavily contested by Coleman Hawkins.

The Illini big fouled Jones, who was then able to add three points to Purdue’s lead going into halftime.

In hindsight, those three points were costly.

REBOUND BATTLE: Coming into Friday, Illinois ranked No. 2 in the country in rebounds per game at 45.23. Purdue ranked 30th in the country at just over 41.

Who won this battle? Purdue.

The Boilermakers out rebounded the Illini 43-28. Keep in mind Zach Edey did not play in the final eight minutes of the first half.

“The difference in the game was on the glass,” Underwood said.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

The world of the transfer portal.

Lance Jones and Marcus Domask were four-year teammates on Southern Illinois. But on Friday night, they were wearing different jerseys.

Quincy put this one home.

SOUND SMART

  • Purdue now leads the all-time series 105-91.
  • Illinois fell to 29-66 all time at Mackey Arena
  • Purdue has won the last four matchups with the Illini.

TWEET OF THE GAME

UP NEXT

Illinois returns home Thursday for a tilt with a Michigan State team who has found some rhythm as of late.

Tipoff against the Spartans will be at 8 p.m. on FS1.