INDIANAPOLIS – Of the two teams from the state of Indiana that played in the afternoon quarterfinal doubleheader of the Big Ten tournament, Purdue became the one to advance to the semifinals. The No. 4 Boilermakers handed No. 12 Illinois an emphatic 89-58 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Five Purdue players scored in double figures as the Boilermakers made 58 percent of their shots, 48 percent beyond the 3-point line.
Sophomore 7-foot, 2-inch center Isaac Haas came off the bench to lead 13th-ranked Purdue with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Hass, who leads the conference in points per 40 minutes with an average of 26.8, scored his 16 points in just 18 minutes. Senior 7-0 center A.J. Hammons, the All-Big Ten first-team member and conference defensive player of the year, scored 10 points with 8 rebounds.
“I think we’re playing well,” said sophomore guard Dakota Mathias, who scored 11 points with 4 assists. “We’re playing harder. It’s the things they stress to us every day in practice. Our offense is flowing a lot better. I think guys are being more aggressive than they were maybe in the middle of the season. Enough to be able to be in Big Ten play.”
Purdue (25-7) won its 25th game for the tenth time in school history and the fourth in the past ten years. The total of 25 Boilermaker assists was the second highest in a Big Ten tournament game, trailing the 30 assists credited to Illinois against Penn State in 2000.
In their only regular-season meeting, Illinois, which had a conference record of 5-13, handed the Boilermakers an 84-70 defeat on Jan. 10. Haas finished with just 8 points and Hammons with 10. Purdue’s record is 12-3 when Haas has scored 10 or more points. This time would be very different.
“I felt like our guys did a really good job of coming out and being ready to play,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We had a tough game in Champaign this year. And after watching tape and just kind of seeing some different things [on] how they got going, we understood it was really important for us to be able to defend. And we knew they were playing three games in three days, and we just couldn’t let them get their heads up and get going.”
Purdue took a 21-11 lead 7:59 into the game and outscored Illinois 45-25 in the first half. alone. Illinois struggled against Purdue’s size. When Hammons grabs five more rebounds, he will join Joe Barry Carroll and Terry Dischinger as the only players in Purdue history with 1,500 points and 900 rebounds, and become the first to accomplish the feat in 36 years. The Boilermakers outrebounded Illinois, 42-24, and held the Illini to 39.3 percent shooting.
Led by Haas, the Boilermakers’ bench outscored Illinois, 42-8. Going into the game, Purdue’s average of 30.9 points from its bench was second nationally behind West Virginia. Purdue’s bench has outscored the opposition in 30 of 32 games this season.
When asked about what the team needed to do to prepare for Michigan, senior guard Rapheal Davis said, “I just want to go out there and play harder. In Michigan, Michigan played harder, As I said, Michigan, they outrebounded us. The only team to do that all season. So at the end of the day, they feel as though they have some matchups that are effective. But we also got the matchups that’s effective for us. It’s one of those things, they’re going to try to spread us out with the shooters, but some of the games, you have to flip it and go inside on them.”
Davis remembered the feeling in the locker room after the 61-56 loss at Michigan on Feb. 13, the one that can be reversed on Saturday. “It was one of those feelings that you never want to have,” he said.
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