Purdue’s win over Illinois invitations extra questions than solutions

A stepback 3-point try from Matthew Mayer arced into the fearful air at Mackey Arena as a sellout crowd held its breath over the opportunity of an all-out, all-time collapse that may have shattered confidence and shredded momentum forward of the Big Ten Tournament and the bigger prize past.

Purdue had led this sport by 21 factors at halftime and 18 factors with 13:41 remaining. The Boilermakers had smothered Illinois’ two greatest scorers — Mayer and Terrence Shannon Jr. — and acquired unexpectedly buoyant contributions from guards Braden Smith and Brandon Newman on the offensive finish of the ground. Long stretches of Sunday’s regular-season finale felt like the proper get-right sport for a possible No. 1 seed that endured a tough patch in February.

Then it almost crumbled. 

Seven turnovers and 9 fouls dedicated within the ultimate 13 minutes. Five consecutive misses by Naismith National Player of the Year candidate Zach Edey. Three missed free throws. All of it culminating in a tied sport with 1:17 remaining.  

That’s when head coach Matt Painter drew up a play for his star, for Edey, for the participant he’s stated he’ll go to each time if opposing groups permit it within the closing moments of shut video games. And the monstrous, mountainous Edey (17 factors, six rebounds) rewarded his coach with an attractive up-and-under transfer for what proved to be the game-winning layup.

But Mayer’s desperation heave got here up brief. The Boilermakers made 5 free throws within the ultimate 21 seconds to stave off embarrassment and safe a 76-71 victory that can invite extra questions than it answered as postseason play begins later this week.

Brandon Newman leads Purdue to victory

Brandon Newman leads Purdue to victory

Purdue’s Brandon Newman scored 19 factors in a 76-71 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Lingering questions on Purdue’s freshmen

As the gang at Mackey Arena boiled and roared following Smith’s second 3-pointer of the primary half — a basket that pushed Purdue’s result in 17 — the diminutive level guard bellowed and flexed and clenched his fists on the way in which again to a jubilant Boilermaker bench.

How nice it should have felt for Smith to wrench himself free from a taking pictures stoop that, in a micro sense, spanned the final three video games through which he shot a mixed 5-for-18 from the sphere, however the tendrils of which have ensnared him on and off for six weeks. Aside from a 24-point burst in opposition to Iowa on Feb. 9, his scoring common from Jan. 22 by means of Thursday’s win over Wisconsin dipped to eight.1 factors per sport with seven outings of 9 factors or fewer. An 87-73 blowout of the Hawkeyes was the one time he made a number of 3-pointers in a single sport throughout that stretch.  

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Yet except for Newman, whose game-high 19 factors in opposition to Illinois had been pretty described as stunning, Smith was the Boilermakers’ most potent, most effective offensive participant for almost all of the sport. His deft use of ball screens within the first half facilitated the type of pull-up jumpers that drowned Purdue final weekend when Indiana freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino poured in 35 factors in opposition to Painter’s crew in an excellent mid-range show. And when the ball was swung or kicked towards Smith for open 3s, he responded by making a number of 3s for simply the second time since Jan. 19 en path to 14 first-half factors. 

[Purdue-Illinois highlights: All the top moments from thriller]

But every little thing Smith did nicely to start Saturday’s sport, unspooled throughout a disastrous second half that, when mixed with an abysmal displaying from Fletcher Loyer, his fellow freshman, underscored each justifiable concern concerning the Boilermakers’ possibilities within the NCAA Tournament.  

In the ultimate 10 minutes, Smith turned the ball over and had a transition layup blocked on an unbelievable play by Shannon that exploited his opponent’s informal jaunt to the rim. He missed a essential free throw within the waning seconds and regarded supremely uncomfortable in opposition to Illinois’ relentless on-ball strain. 

Loyer endured one in all his worst video games of the season, with 4 factors on 0-for-4 taking pictures and extra private fouls (4) than assists (three). His solely offensive output got here on the free-throw line, the place he helped ice the sport with two clutch makes that offset his mixture of foul and turnover a couple of minutes prior. But it was the eighth time within the final 13 video games that Purdue’s second-leading scorer — he averages 11.9 factors per sport — failed to succeed in double figures.

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Smith and Loyer are proving how tough it’s to win powerful video games with an all-freshman backcourt.  

“Freshmen go through different moments at different times,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood stated of Purdue’s guards the day earlier than going through the Boilermakers. “They’ve had an outstanding year. Loyer is just an unbelievable shooter, and I think they’ve played with great composure. Those two kids have been thrown out there very early on, and Zach gives them a nice buffer, but they’re both very good players.” 

Terrence Shannon Jr.’s RIDICULOUS chase-down block

Terrence Shannon Jr.'s RIDICULOUS chase-down block

Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr. caught as much as Purdue’s Braden Smith for an incredible block on Sunday.

Shuffling the deck 

In an indication that the Boilermakers have been looking for one thing, something, to halt what gave the impression to be the early phases of a downward spiral — they misplaced twice within the span of eight days in early February — Painter and his workers modified their beginning lineup in 4 consecutive video games. Beginning with a highway loss to Maryland on Feb. 16, and persevering with by means of a 63-61 escape in opposition to Wisconsin on March 2, the one gamers whose spots remained unchanged had been Edey, Loyer and Smith, the crew’s three main scorers.

Around them spun a carousel of supporting actors whose contributions have waxed and waned all year long: small forwards Newman (5.6 factors per sport), Mason Gillis (6.3 PPG), Ethan Morton (4.1 PPG); and energy ahead Caleb Furst (6.0 PPG).  

Newman, a junior, earned his first begin of the season in Thursday’s win over Wisconsin. He scored seven factors on an inefficient 2-for-7 taking pictures efficiency, together with misfires on all 5 makes an attempt from past the arc, however Painter got here away fairly happy with the contributions. With the sport teetering within the waning seconds, Newman confidently swished a pair of free throws that pushed Purdue’s lead from one level to a few factors. The digital camera crew caught him assuring the Boilermakers’ bench he would make each pictures in the course of the brief break between his first and second makes an attempt. The the rest of Newman’s stat line included 5 rebounds and two steals.  

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“His energy in the last game, really, from a staff standpoint, we just thought we needed that,” Painter stated after a hard-fought win in Madison. “We needed someone going out there and just laying it on the line competing. … Proud of Brandon. He’s always stayed with it. He did it last year; he’s done it this year. I appreciate him hanging in there.” 

Brandon Newman knocks down a protracted 3-pointer

Brandon Newman knocks down a long 3-pointer

Purdue’s Brandon Newman drained a 3-pointer late within the first half because the Boilermakers went to the locker room with a 47-26 lead.

The superior effort at Wisconsin earned Newman one other begin Sunday, a possibility he maximized from the opening tip. Newman notched an help, two steals and compelled Illinois’ Shannon to journey throughout the first 2:14 of what advanced right into a lopsided half. Purdue’s lead swelled to 11-0 when Newman curled off a baseline display to bury a 3-pointer from the left wing.

He saved his second flurry for the latter phases of the primary half, by which level the Illini had clawed to inside an inexpensive margin. In the span of three:25, Newman transformed a conventional three-point play in transition, ripped the ball from Shannon and drew one other foul on a quick break, drilled two extra 3-pointers and fed an help to energy ahead Trey Kaufman-Renn for a layup that gave the Boilermakers a 21-point edge on the break.

Newman ended the half with a team-best 15 factors — already the third-highest level complete of his profession in opposition to a Big Ten opponent — however by no means made a subject aim within the second half. He helped seal the sport with 4 free throws within the ultimate 21 seconds after disappearing for 19 minutes.   

Painter wants him to be an X-factor because the Big Ten Tournament awaits.  

Michael Cohen covers faculty soccer and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.  

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