Purdue coach Matt Painter is working to help his team understand one thing.
“How hard it is to win one game in the Big Ten,” he said Friday night after a 92-65 rout of Nebraska. “Penn State was a hard game for us, this was a hard game for us, the next game will be a hard game for us. You just have to be able to keep that discipline.”
Monday’s trip to No. 25 Illinois will be a test of the No. 7 Boilermakers’ discipline, particularly on the defensive end. How do they keep Kofi Cockburn in check inside while still finding a way to cover all of the Fighting Illini’s 3-point shooters?
The same question can be asked of Illinois (13-3, 6-0 Big Ten). It has to figure out a way to control Zach Edey and Trevion Williams inside while neutralizing the likes of Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic on the perimeter.
Nebraska sure couldn’t do it. Edey went for 22 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes, while Ivey added 17 and five assists. Purdue (14-2, 3-2) was in attack mode from the jump, getting into the bonus by the first TV timeout and earning 27 foul shots for the night.
Ivey said that some negative comments after conference losses to Rutgers and Wisconsin fueled his fire.
“Looking back at the games we lost,” he said, “I just felt we were getting disrespect from a lot of people saying we can’t do this or can’t do that. I just came out fired up today and I’ve got to do that every night.”
Ivey has done it more often than not this season, leading the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game while averaging 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Edey chips in 15.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in just 17.3 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini had to work most of their 40 minutes Friday night in Champaign to put away short-handed Michigan, 68-53. They ended the game with a 23-9 run as Trent Frazier played the role of closer with 11 straight points in the last five minutes.
Cockburn finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double, while Frazier scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime. Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer added 16 as Illinois stayed atop the Big 10.
“They came out with more energy and punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond,” Frazier said to the Champaign News-Gazette. “The second half, we had to come out with more energy and effort. I’m glad this team responded. We threw more punches in the second half.”
Cockburn is a 7-foot-1, 285-pound haymaker. He’s averaging 21.9 points and 12.3 rebounds in 13 games, canning 60.2 percent from the field and improving his foul shooting to 66.3 percent.
“He’s not just big,” said Michigan coach Juwan Howard of Cockburn. “He’s a talent. He’s worked on his game. He does a really good job of finishing in the paint.”
Purdue owns a 102-90 lead in the all-time series, although Illinois won the teams’ last meeting 66-58 on Jan. 2, 2021, in West Lafayette.
–Field Level Media