If the Illini are actually going to snap their NCAA tournament drought, quite simply they've got to stop playing like this.
Illinois was blown out of Mackey Arena on Tuesday night. Yes the 91-68 loss to Purdue came at the hands of one of the Big Ten's best on its home floor. But the Illini were atrocious on both ends of the floor, missing a boatload of shots and giving the Boilermakers anything and everything they wanted on the other end.
Look no further than the shooting percentages, which aptly if not fully tell the story of how things went for both teams. Purdue shot 60.4 percent from the floor. Illinois shot 40.3 percent.
Despite holding Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan to just one made basket in the first half, the Illini ended up getting dominated by the Boilers' big-man tandem of Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Swanigan, of course, turned in a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Haas dominated with 24 points and six rebounds. He was 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.
For Purdue, it was a terrific response to its loss at Iowa last week. With the Big Ten a seeming league of mediocrity this far into the 2016-17 campaign, the Boilers still hold a top spot in the views of many. A win over Illinois won't vault Purdue into national title contender status, but winning by 23 is never a bad thing for the resume.
For the Illini, things were disastrous from the get-go. The Boilers used a big 16-3 run early in the game to establish a double-digit lead they didn't relinquish the rest of the way. That advantage grew as big as 16 in the first half as Purdue shot 60 percent over the first 20 minutes and splashed home five of their nine attempts from 3-point range. Swanigan made just one shot in the first, but Carsen Edwards and Haas scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Illinois, meanwhile, couldn't cut into that lead, shooting just 36.1 percent from the floor in the first half. The individual shooting numbers were bad all around, with Tracy Abrams 0-for-4, Jalen Coleman-Lands 1-for-5 and Leron Black 1-for-5.
Things didn't get any better for the visitors in the second half. Their shooting numbers improved marginally as time wore on, but the Boilers stayed red hot, shooting 60.7 percent after halftime. Haas and Swanigan stayed dominant, with 31 of their combined 46 points coming over the final 40 minutes.
Maverick Morgan finished as Illinois' leading scorer with 15 points. Malcolm Hill scored 12 points, and Te'Jon Lucas scored 10 points.
Carsen Edwards finished with 14 for Purdue, with Vincent Edwards adding 11 points and P.J. Thompson scoring 10 points.
It was an ugly showing for the Illini, who could find their NCAA tournament hopes fading fast. Illinois sits at 12-7 overall with a mere 2-4 record in Big Ten play, losers of four of its last six. Things don't get too much easier, with games against Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern upcoming. Three of those come away from Champaign, where the Illini are 3-5 this season.
Purdue bounced back from that road defeat at Iowa last week with Tuesday's win. The Boilers are 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference, looking like one of the league's top teams. Next up is a Saturday game against Penn State.