CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — In a classic heavyweight Big Ten battle, No. 4 Purdue outlasted No. 17 Illinois in double overtime, 96-88, handing the Illini their first conference loss of the season.

Andre Curbelo returned to the court for the first time in nearly two months and after missing 11 straight games. The sophomore point guard scored a career high 20 points for the Illini, providing a spark off the bench. Alfonso Plummer led all scorers with 24 points, with Curbelo (20), Trent Frazier (16) and Kofi Cockburn (10) all in double-digits for the Illini.

“I had an idea going in I was going to play him six to eight minutes,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about Curbelo. “He’s in horrific shape. Horrible shape. But he’s a very good athlete, you’re talking about a young man who’s done very little in the last six to eight weeks. He impacted the game at a pretty high level.”

“One of the best point guards in the nation,” Plummer said about Curbelo. “He can create a lot of stuff for us and for Kofi. I feel like he brings a lot of attention from the other team, so that’s going to help us.”

Sasha Stefanovic led the Boilermakers with 22 points, with Zach Edey adding 20, Jaden Ivey pitching in 19, Trevion Williams scoring 14 and Eric Hunter Jr. contributing 11.

The Boilermakers (15-2, 4-2 B1G) led by as many as 13 points in the first half before the Illini (13-4, 6-1) made a second half surge, led by Curbelo. He scored 14 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes, including the final four points in regulation to send it to the extra session.

“We showed the entire country that we belong and in my opinion this motivates us even more because a loss stings,” Illinois sophomore Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk said. “In double overtime we were right there but we take what we have to and move forward.”

The battle of the bigs lived up to the hype. Zach Edey and Trevion Williams stepped up with 34 combined points, but Kofi Cockburn sat most of the second half with foul trouble. It was Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk who provided a spark to keep Illinois in it.

“I try and stay in the moment, because it is easy to get caught up in it’s a huge game and there’s a lot of fans up there but all the emotion, it comes afterwards,” Bosmans-Verdonk said. Once it’s time to play, it’s time to play.”

Bosmans-Verdonk only scored four points but played a huge role on defense, holding Williams to just one make over a longer stretch in the second half.

“I thought the job the young man who was sitting right here, Benjamin Verdonk, was about everything we want our program to be about,” Underwood said. “The fight, the competitiveness.”

Even with the loss the Illini still hold the outright lead in the Big Ten at 6-1. They’re attention now turns to Maryland this weekend, before another tough battle when Michigan State comes to Champaign next Tuesday.