CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After a week of rest, the Fighting Illini showed no rust as they continued their rise to the top of the Big Ten, beating Purdue 66-58 to improve to a perfect 6-0 at the State Farm Center.
It didn’t come easy though — the Boilermakers went on a 19-0 run to begin the second half — but the Illini responded with a 17-5 run of their own sparked by a dunk and a three from freshmen Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller. After that point — the Illini were able to cruise to their third straight conference win.
“We’re just going to continue to earn that trust in practice, because what we do in practice is what we’re going to do in the game,” says Curbelo. “We just gotta continue to improve, keep getting better, and keep beong coachable because that’s what’s going to get us minutes all together.”
Senior Da’Monte Williams also improved to 67% behind the arc, to lead the nation in three-point percentage. Williams scored 12 points and has 10 rebounds, for his second double-double of the season and his career.
“Just to come together, coaches get on us every day about it. Obviously we’ve seen in the Penn State game when we come together good things happen,” says Williams. “Coaches have been preaching it to us every day since then.”
The battle in the paint between Kofi Cockburn and Trevion Williams was one to watch all game.
Both had 14 points but Cockburn out rebounded the Boilermaker junior 10 to eight. Being able to limit the impact of Purdue’s size in the game was oh so important for the Illini to come out on top.
“I thought they were great, I thought they were absolutely great,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “You hold [Trevion] Williams to 14, the biggest stat in that is he had two assists, he was three for whatever the first half. I thought we did a great, great job. That comes, not just on our bigs doing that, that comes from high hands, that comes with ball pressure.”
Illinois now turns their sights to their in-state rival Northwestern — who also sit near the top of the Big Ten table. The Illini hope they can turn this win streak into momentum for the gauntlet of January where the Illini are schedule to play four top 25 teams.
Their game against the Wildcats is set for 8:00 CT on Thursday.