Illinois v Purdue

No. 11 Illinois falls in Big Ten opener at Purdue

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Illinois was in the midst of a 10-2 run to cut what was a 10 point lead down to 63-61 when Purdue’s Jacob Lawson missed two free throws with 20 seconds left. The ball took a funny bounce off the rim and rolled towards the corner. Senior guard DJ Byrd fought off a box out from Sam McLaurin, chased down the loose ball and managed to call a timeout from his knees before his momentum carried him out of bounds.

On the ensuing inbounds, Purdue found Byrd under the basket, and he laid the ball in while drawing a foul, putting the Boilermakers up five, sealing the 68-61 win over No. 11 Illinois.

Before I get into anything specific about either team, there’s something that needs to be made abundantly clear: this game was played at Purdue in Mackey Arena.

And if there is anything that we know is consistently true about college basketball, it’s that winning on the road is a very difficult thing to do, especially in conference play. Illinois, which has dropped eight straight to Purdue, was within one possession on two different occasions in the final minute. This wasn’t exactly a blowout. That’s something to keep in mind here.

Having said that, there is plenty that we can take out of this game.

For starters, Purdue provided every team in the Big Ten with the blueprint for how to beat Illinois.

– Step 1: Contain Brandon Paul. He finished with 15 points on 5-10 shooting, but had seven points when the Illini were down 10 with about three minutes left. He hit two threes on back-to-back possessions to get Illinois within three.

– Step 2: Don’t allow Illinois’ other wings to get hot from keep. Joseph Betrand, DJ Richardson and Tracy Abrams were a combined 4-16 from three.

– Step 3: Get to the offensive glass. Purdue had 17 offensive boards and notched an offensive rebounding percentage of 43.6%.

But Purdue also showed why the Big Ten is going to be such a tough and competitive league in 2013.

The Boilermakers are, by most accounts, no better than ninth in the Big Ten heading into league play. But they are also a young team that’s finally getting healthy. Terone Johnson, who found his way onto a lot of breakout player lists and was battling injuries earlier in the year, finished with a season-high 25 points in the win. DJ Byrd, who was shooting 30.7% from three coming in, hit 4-9 from beyond the arc.

(Byrd hit six of his first seven at Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but missed 19 straight threes after that. He’s 12-26 since hitting his second three against Notre Dame four games ago. He’s streaky, but when he gets it going, he’s dangerous.)

The bottom line is this: Illinois isn’t a team built to win games on the road. They rely too heavily on the three and on Brandon Paul. But regardless of opponent, a road win in the Big Ten is not going to be an easy thing to come by.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.