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January 14, 2014

Illini look to bounce back vs. Purdue




Disappointment hit Illini Nation after a loss to Northwestern, but the Illini have to move on and they have to do so quickly.

The Purdue Boilermakers enter the State Farm Center Wednesday night in another game that qualifies as a must win for Illinois.

Here's a look at the game and a pick from Orange and Blue News.


Setting the Stage

Illinois (13-4, 2-2) vs. Purdue (11-5, 1-2)
Jan. 15, 2014 // 8 PM CST // Champaign, IL. // State Farm Center (16,618)
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler (Play-By-Play), Shon Morris (Analyst)
Radio: Fighting Illini Sports Network - Brian Barnhart (Play-By-Play), Jerry Hester (Analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius - 119, XM - 191


Storylines

* The leading scorer for the Illini, Junior guard Rayvonte Rice is day to day with a groin strain. If Rice can't go, Freshman Kendrick Nunn will likely get the start.

* Using efficiency numbers, this is the worst defensive team that Matt Painter has had at Purdue. Many have attributed that to the rule changes allowing freedom of movement, something Purdue used to slow down with their clutching and grabbing.

* Purdue uses their bench as much as anyone in the league. Painter will get 10 players at least 10 minutes most likely. Terone and Ronnie Johnson are the only two players that average playing more than 20 minutes per game.

* Tracy Abrams has scored in double figures in each of his last three games against Purdue, averaging 15.7 points against the Boilermakers.

* Illinois has won 13 in a row at State Farm Center, its longest home winning streak since claiming 14 straight from Feb. 16, 2011-Jan. 10, 2012. The Illini also have won six consecutive Big Ten home games, its best streak since also claiming six in a row at home in league play over the same stretch.

* This is the only game this season between Illinois and Purdue. It is the Illini's second Big Ten one-play, following Sunday's loss at Northwestern. The UI's remaining singles are at Minnesota (2/19) and Michigan at home (3/4).

* In the last meeting between Illinois and Purdue, the Illini defeated the Boilermakers 79-59 in Champaign to snap an eight-game Purdue series winning streak. Illinois is attempting to defeat the Boilers at home in back-to-back games for the first time since 2005-06.


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Keys to the game

1. The offensive glass - Purdue struggles with rebounding, and Illinois has been good at getting second chance opportunities. I expect that Illinois will once again have the opportunity to get extra shots. Now the question is, can they convert? Despite grabbing a large number of offensive boards, they aren't lighting up the scoreboard. Ekey and Egwu have had trouble converting dunks and tip ins, so hopefully that is something they can fix.

2. The foul line - Despite their propensity to attack the basket, Illinois hasn't been getting many free throw attempts. Just 6 trips to the line against Northwestern had the players and coaches scratching their heads. Due to the rule changes, Purdue isn't as physical as they have been in the past, and they aren't near as good on defense.

3. TNT - This is the most important key to the game for Illinois. Can they overcome the mental side of things? A couple of poor performances, injuries, missing a ridiculous amount of shots, and many of them layups, is something that a weak team can let affect it. This team has been tough all year long, so they need to continue that and find a way to fight through a difficult stretch. They did it a year ago, can they do it again?


Prediction

It's hard to imagine Illinois continuing to miss easy shots at the rim and wide open 3 point looks. Last season, Illinois hit 8-58 from 3 over the course of a 3 game skid early in the B1G, before draining 7-22 at Nebraska in a 20 point win. They can rebound and get back on track for these two key home games. Illinois pulls this one out, with a much better offensive game, 71-64 over Purdue.





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