Illini Beat Purdue 84-70 In 1st Big Ten Win Of Season
The Illini men’s basketball team earned their first Big Ten win with an 84-70 shellacking of 20th-ranked Purdue Sunday evening at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
Malcolm Hill scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished three assists and blocked two shots. But he was the first to say the game's star was fellow Illini Kendrick Nunn.
I think Kendrick had a key start to our second half,” said Hill. “He exploded for eight, nine quick points. He didn’t let the first half get to him. The only thing that stood out to me was the dunk. I think that’s when we really got going.”
"The dunk" refers to a one-handed stuff over Boiler big man Caleb Swanigan, which pushed the Illini lead to nine.
Nunn finished with 22 points, 18 in the second half.
That effort is all the more impressive given Nunn's exhausting week, highlighted by the birth of Kason Lee Nunn at Carle Hospital in Urbana on Thursday.
“It’s been a long week for me,” said Nunn, in acknowledgement of his son’s birth. “I probably haven’t got as much sleep for the past week. But when I get on the floor, I do what I have to do, you know? I’m proud of my son’s birth and glad we came today and get the win.”
Head basketball coach John Groce was unwavering in his support of Nunn's decision to stay in Champaign for his son's birth — rather than traveling to Michigan State, for a January 7th game which Illinois lost by 25 points.
“I do know a coach, that I really respect, certainly wasn’t his fault, timing different, but missed the birth of his child,” said Groce. “I always remembered that, him talking to me about that. I certainly was there for all three of mine and wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I didn’t want him (Nunn) to miss it. I do think he probably thought it was going to happen a little quicker. But God’s in control of that. I’m just glad he was there and the baby’s healthy.”
As a team, Illinois shot 54% for the game, including 53% from three-point range. The Illini committed 10 turnovers to Purdue's 16. The Boilermakers grabbed a season-low 31 rebounds and committed a season-high 29 fouls.
Caleb Swanigan and P.J Thompson led Purdue with 12 points apiece. A.J. Hammons added 10 points and 8 rebounds.
Illinois is now 9-8 on the season, 1-3 in the Big Ten Conference. Purdue drops to 14-3 overall, and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Former Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson and his family attended the game, which featured a "Lou Henson Bobblehead" promotion and giveaway. It was Henson's 84th birthday. The Illini improved to 6-0 on Bobblehead giveaway nights. The first five promotions featured starters from the 2005 Final Four team.
The Illini have a week off before facing Nebraska at 1:30 Saturday afternoon in Champaign.