Connect with us


Illinois Basketball Travels to No. 1 Purdue



Illinois Basketball Travels to No. 1 Purdue
Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Quincy Guerrier (13) and guard Luke Goode (10) celebrate during the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Terrence Shannon Jr. suspension broke, Illinois Basketball has done an admirable job of keeping things rolling. On the flip side, Purdue has spent the better part of the last 12 months destroying just about every high-major team, especially in Mackey Arena. It will take the best game the Illini have played all year so far to escape with a win, but as always, there is a path to victory.

1. Illinois Basketball needs to keep their foot on the gas pedal.

Purdue is a dominant half-court basketball team. returning National Player of the Year Zach Edey is the best halfcourt anchor on both sides of the ball in the sport. He is able to dominate the pace of games with his post-up play, and when he can get in position is a mountain to shoot over on the other end. The Boilermakers know this and play to his strengths very well. However, when a game gets sped up, you can bypass the mountain while it’s still moving into position. It’s easier said than done, as Purdue rarely takes bad shots or turns the ball over. Even more so, Illinois is one of the worst teams in the country at generating steals and turnovers. Last year they succeeded in speeding the game up in the second half. This allowed them to erase a near 20-point halftime deficit. In fact, the Illini won the Edey minutes last year, with the Boiler’s big run coming from forcing turnovers on the Illinois offense.

Whether it be from doubling the post or pressing, Brad Underwood needs to speed the game up. The Illini can’t win (especially without Shannon Jr.) in a half-court game against the Boilers.

2. Blitz

The matchup everyone has their eye on before the game is Coleman Hawkins and Edey. With Hawkins’s ability to pull opposing centers out of the paint Purdue may have to get creative. Boilers coach Matt Painter put Edey on Ty Rodgers last year when Hawkins spearheaded that second-half charge. We might very well see that again this year from the start, protecting Edey from having to chase Hawkins on the perimeter and clogging the driving lanes. If Rodgers can’t punish that coverage, he will likely have to sit while Justin Harmon enters. When Edey is drawn out of the paint, it won’t just be about driving and spacing. The primary benefit will be exposing the Boiler’s lesser rebounders against the Illini’s jumbo size. Last year the Illini went +1 on the glass, with 15 offensive rebounds. Illinois has to get shots (even bad ones) over turnovers, and when a shot goes up the game really starts.

3. 12 Rounds

This is the hardest game on the Illini’s schedule. It has been since the day it was announced. Especially without Shannon Jr., it will take everyone to win this game. Any player who steps on the floor has to be locked in, and ready to fight and scratch for every possession. Purdue will throw punches. They are the best team in the country on their home court.  They have the best player on the floor and a system that has maximized his talent. Illinois needs to keep their heads and throw punches back. Part of going 12 rounds will be the guys staying clean. Hawkins has the biggest task, needing to guard Edey for large minutes without fouling despite a half-foot and over 30-pound size disadvantage. The officiating will likely slide Purdue’s way (natural for a team that good at home.) The timing of the fouls will be key. Keeping the Boilers out of the bonus, and Illinois’ key players in the game, will be of the utmost importance.

If Illinois can disrupt the pace, crash the glass, and play as clean as possible, they can give themselves a chance at an all-timer win.

Thank you for reading Armchair Illini. For more Illinois Athletics and Big Ten content from Armchair Illini, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Please use our Seatgeek code for 20$ off your purchase on ARMCHAIRILLINOIS. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing Illinois media outlets around!

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.