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Fireworks In Mackey Arena As Purdue Collects Vital Win

Purdue’s defense bottles up Illinois’ Trent Frazier at the basket
Casey Abbett
Purdue’s defense bottles up Illinois’ Trent Frazier at the basket

An explosive second half from the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers propelled them into a share for first place in the Big Ten after defeating the No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini, 84-68, in Mackey Arena Tuesday night.

With this win Purdue moves into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten with Illinois and Wisconsin with several teams still in the race for the Big Ten regular season title with only a few weeks remaining.

Purdue (21-3, 10-3 in conference) took over for good when senior guard Sasha Stefanovic knocked down a three-pointer that gave Purdue the 43-40 advantage over Illinois (17-6, 10-3).

Senior Eric Hunter Jr provided the spark for Purdue’s offense in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring all nine of his points in the opening four minutes of the period.

Though Hunter Jr provided the spark, it was sophomore Jaden Ivey who caught fire, scoring 22 of his 26 in the second half. He also finished with a game-high six assists.

“It makes the game so much easier,” said sophomore forward Mason Gilis when asked about when Ivey is playing at a high level. “I think it takes a lot of pressure off (everyone else’s) shoulders. It's a blessing to be able to play with him.”

As a whole the Boilers shot 65 percent from the field in the second half and made five of ten three-point attempts.

While the Boilermakers thrived in the second half, the Fighting Illini shot only 35.7 percent from the field and made one of ten from three-point land. Purdue held four Illinois starters (Alfonso Plummer, Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison and Da’Monte Williams) to four points in the second half. Those four players combine for 42.6 points per game this year.

“One of those nights,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. “We’re not going to win many ball games when Trent Frazier and Jacob Grandison go 4-for-15 (and) Da’Monte Williams goes 1-for-6.”

Purdue faces a quick turnaround when the team travels north to face Michigan for the second time in five days. Tip-off is set at 9 p.m. in Ann Arbor.

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.