Illinois survives slow start, holds off Boilermakers, 66-57
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Illinois survived a cold start and got double-figure scoring from four players Wednesday to hold off Purdue, 66-57.
Purdue made a late charge but a Nnanna Egwu dunk with 18 seconds left put the Illini up 64-57.
Malcolm Hill led Illinois (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) with 18 points. Freshman Leron Black had 15 with 13 rebounds, Kendrick Nunn scored 14 points and Egwu 11.
The Illini shot just 28.6 percent in the first half but somehow went to the locker room with a 32-30 lead.
Illinois also relied on efficient free throw shooting while keeping the Boilermakers away from the line. Illinois was 21 of 24 while Purdue was just 4 of 9.
Jon Octeus and Raphael Davis led the Boilermakers (11-8, 3-3) with 14 points each.
Purdue played most of the game without leading scorer Kendall Stephens who aggravated a finger he broke earlier in the season.
As the game slipped away late, the Boilermakers’ and coach Matt Painter’s frustrations showed.
Painter twice called his team to the sideline in the final minutes, sharply criticizing their energy and effort.
”You got something left?” he shouted at one point.
But his counterpart, Jon Groce, seemed to feel a win was within his team’s reach.
”Let’s Go! Get up!” he shouted to the crowd as the Illini dropped back on defense in one of the game’s final possessions.
After the Boilermakers closed to within four at 56-52 with 3:30 to play on a 3-pointer by Davis, the Illini closed on a 10-5 run that sealed the win.
Through the game’s first 15 minutes, Illinois had to wonder where points would come from.
Nunn, Ahmad Starks and Hill combined to miss their first 10 shots. They didn’t get much better from there – with Nunn missing badly on a long, desperate 3-pointer and Starks watching what looked like an easy layup roll off the rim – until Nunn sparked the offense with a little bit of defense.
The sophomore pulled off a pair of steals in the first half’s final minutes, both leading to points that keyed an 8-0 run.
The final shot was a 3 from Hill that found nothing but net with 2 seconds left on the clock. It gave the Illini a 32-30 edge that, minutes earlier, seemed highly unlikely.
Illinois shot just 28.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
Purdue: Coming into the Wednesday’s game, the road had not been kind to the Boilermakers. They had lost nine of their last 10 away from home. The only win was Saturday at Penn State.
Illinois: With a block late in the first half, Egwu broke the Illini career blocked-shots record. Deon Thomas had held the record at 177 since 1994. Egwu finished with five Wednesday, giving him a career 179.
Purdue hosts Iowa on Saturday.
Illinois ends a two-game homestand, travelling to Minnesota on Saturday.