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Boilermakers Escape Double Overtime Scare Against The Illini

 Purdue has out-scored their opponents by 138 points at the free-throw line this season.
(FILE PHOTO: Casey Abbett)
Purdue has out-scored their opponents by 138 points at the free-throw line this season.

At a place where the Purdue Boilermakers basketball team hasn’t won a Big Ten game in four years, and against an Illinois team that entered Monday as the leader in the conference standings, it took double overtime to gut out a win, 96-88, on Martin Luther King Day.

“We were able to hang in there and pull it out. We have had a couple games where we haven’t done that,” said coach Matt Painter. “I think this was really good for our guy’s confidence.”

The last time Purdue (15-2, 4-2) won in Champaign was when Carsen Edwards, a sophomore at the time, scored 40 points in 2018.

In this contest, no single individual carried the Boilers like Edwards did four years ago.

A three-pointer from the corner by Sasha Stefanovic 52 seconds into the second overtime gave Purdue the lead for good, 81-78. Stefanovic finished with a team-high 22 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey with eight.

Andre Curbelo, making his first appearance for the Illini since November, forced the first overtime with four points on a pair of baskets at the end of regulation. It negated a second-half lead by the Boilers who were up by as many as 13.

Alfonso Plummer, who scored a game-high 24 points for the Illini, got a layup with nine seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game, 78-78, and forced the second overtime. Plummer made six three-pointers in the game, including one in the first OT.

Illini center Kofi Cockburn, who averaged 21.9 points a game and 12.3 rebounds, was held to ten points, a season low. Cockburn was limited to 22 minutes on the floor because of foul trouble.

“It is very difficult to defend teams that have that kind of a player,” said Painter about Cockburn. “Obviously we were fortunate he got into foul trouble so we played half the game without (Cockburn).”

An unexpected Boilermaker who stepped up was Eric Hunter Jr., a senior from Indianapolis, who scored a season-high 11 off the bench, including eight in the second OT. He averaged 3.3. points a game entering the contest.

Purdue's next test is against in-state rival Indiana in Bloomington, Thursday at 7 p.m.

Casey Abbett is a senior at Purdue from LaCrosse, Indiana, and has been been interning as a sports reporter for WBAA since his freshman year.