Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 11, 2016
Purdue drove 60 miles south to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tourney with big hopes, and the Boilermakers are off to a good start, pounding Illinois in its opener. It?s difficult to fathom that Purdue has played any better today at any other time this year. The Boilers were shooting well, which made the play of big men A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan even more effective.
It all was too much for an undermanned No. 12 Illinois team that was playing its third game in three days. No. 4 Purdue will take on No. 8 Michigan on Saturday for the chance to play for the Big Ten title on Sunday.
Top star: Take your pick among any number of players from Purdue, which had five guys in double-figures. Let?s go with Swanigan, who had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Top stat line: Purdue monolith Haas was unstoppable. He hit 8-of-9 shots to score 16 points. It was as simple as catch in the paint and shoot for Haas, who looked 10-feet tall at times vs. outmanned Illinois.
Top stat: 58 percent, Purdue?s shooting percentage. And the Boilers also had just 10 turnovers. When this team excels in those areas, it can beat just about any squad in the nation.
Top dunk: About 13 minutes into the game, Purdue?s A.J. Hammons grabbed an offensive rebound, gathered himself and delivered a frighteningly powerful slam.
It was over when: Purdue asserted control midway through the first half and roared to a 45-25 halftime lead. The Boilermakers could seemingly do no wrong, shooting 62 percent in the first half and 45 percent from beyond the arc. Purdue?s lead grew to as many as 39 in the second half as it cruised to victory.
Did you see that? Early in the game, Illinois? Malcolm Hill went up for a stuff and had an epic fail. But while still lamenting his flub, Purdue turned over the ball and an Illini teammate quickly found Hill still in Boilermaker territory. This time, Hill didn?t mess up the dunk.
- Purdue has won one Big Ten tourney title, winning it all in 2009. The Boilers played in the first Big Ten tourney title game, losing to Michigan.
- At one point, Purdue went on a 41-9 run.
- Illinois beat Purdue by 14 points earlier this year. Today, the Illini lost by 31. That?s a 45-point swing.
- Purdue had five players in double-figures.
- Illinois? season ends 15-18 after beating Minnesota and Iowa to advance to today.