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.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.