by Ryan Berry | staff writer
For the first 18 or so minutes of game time Saturday afternoon, it looked as if the Purdue men’s basketball team might get run right out of its own building.
As has been a trend for Purdue all season, the Boilermakers roared back, using a strong second half in which it outscored Illinois by ten to win by the final score of 63-58.
Purdue senior guard Jon Octeus scored 11 points in his final game in West Lafayette. Juniors Raphael Davis and A.J. Hammons were once again huge for the Boilermakers (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten) in the final home game of the season. Davis contributed 18 points and dished out four assists. Hammons notched another double-double, finishing with 16 points and ten rebounds. Freshman P.J. Thompson played a vital role for Purdue as a defensive sparkplug off the bench.
Illini senior Rayvonte Rice led his team in scoring, totaling 25 in a losing effort. Malcom Hill added 15 points in his 31 minutes of action. After a strong early start for Illinois, the Illini (19-12, 9-9 Big Ten) struggled mightily to score in the second half, thanks in part to a strong showing from Purdue defensively.
After A.J. Hammons scored the first basket of the game for Purdue, Illinois went on a 15-0 run to lead 15-2 only nine minutes into the game. Boilermaker freshman Dakota Mathias nailed a three point shot out of a timeout to pull Purdue back within ten. For the remainder of the first half, the Boilermakers returned back to the basics, playing stout defense to climb back into the game. An 8-0 run of its own drew Purdue within five points of Illinois at halftime, 26-21.
In the second half of play, Purdue scored the first five points to tie the contest at 26-all before Illinois answered with four of their own. With 16 minutes remaining in the game, Raphael Davis buried a three pointer that gave the Boilermakers their first lead since the opening minute. The lead swelled to as many as 14 points when a P.J. Thompson three gave Purdue a 57-43 advantage.
Illinois countered with a small run, but it ended up being too little, too late, as Purdue capped off the regular season with an impressive home victory. The Boilermakers showed remarkable improvement from a season ago, when they finished last in the Big Ten Conference.
Purdue seniors Jon Octeus and Neal Beshears were recognized in a post-game ceremony for their outstanding careers and contributions to Purdue basketball.
Purdue will begin postseason play next week in the Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago, Illinois.