WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WCIA) — Illinois basketball is back? It’s not a far-fetched question at this point after the Illini (14-5, 6-2 B1G) won their fifth straight game Tuesday night at Purdue, winning at Mackey Arena for the first time since 2008.
“I feel like we have that swag where we’re playing confident,” Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said. “Everyone is taking the shots that they can take and making the shots they take and I feel like the leadership is right, the locker room is right.”
The Boilermakers (10-9, 3-5) led by one at half but the Illini exploded in the second, shooting 75 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes. The Illini went more than 9:30 without missing a field goal midway through the second half. The defense is what stands out most to junior guard Trent Frazier, though. Purdue shot 41 percent for the game, 37 percent from beyond the arc.
“I feel like we’re the best defensive team in the conference, that’s what’s helping us win,” Frazier said. “We have a phenomenal front court and back court. Offense will never be our problem in games, we can score the ball.”
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was most impressed with his team’s toughness. It’s something the Purdue players admitted after the game.
“Just like you said it, we just got out toughed,” Purdue junior center Matt Haarms said. “I mean it’s that easy.”
“There’s no greater compliment,” Underwood said. “All you can ask is for an opposing player or an opposing coach to say you guys play really, really hard and you out toughed us. That’s the substance we want our program to be about.”
Illinois has three days off before playing its second straight road game, visiting Michigan Saturday morning at 11 a.m.