CHAMPAIGN — Carsen Edwards stepped up when No. 9 Purdue needed a huge performance.
Edwards scored a career-high 40 points and Dakota Mathias added 18 to help the Boilermakers outlast Illinois in a 93-86 victory on Thursday night.
“I know they might not have the best record, but those guys compete. They make it difficult,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’re just fortunate enough to have probably the best guard in our league, who can make individual plays, and he did them tonight.”
Edwards was 11 for 19 from the field and 14 for 16 at the line in the first 40-point game for Purdue since Glenn Robinson scored 44 points in a victory against Kansas in the NCAA Tournament in 1994. He also joined Illinois’ Brandon Paul as the only Big Ten players to score 40 points in a conference game in the last 20 years.
“If I played the way I did and we lost, it wouldn’t be as special to me,” Edwards said. “It was a close game all of the way. I’m just glad we came through with the win.”
Purdue (25-5, 14-3) shot 58.3 percent from the field in its second game since Vincent Edwards was sidelined by a left ankle injury. The Boilermakers also went 11 for 23 from 3-point range.
There were eight lead changes in the first half, highlighted by two big runs. With just under 10 minutes left, Edwards stole the ball from Leron Black and went down for a huge dunk to spark a 17-6 run for the Boilermakers. The Illini responded with a 10-3 run to finish the half trailing 43-38.
Trent Frazier helped Illinois rally in the second half, reeling off eight straight points to tie it at 56. Frazier, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 20 points, six assists and five steals.
The Illini (13-17, 3-14) stayed within striking distance the rest of the game, but Purdue’s size and Edwards’ scoring eventually took over. The sophomore had 25 points in the second half, including a monstrous dunk on Frazier with just under seven minutes to play.
Black led Illinois with 28 points, notching his fourth consecutive 20-point game.
“We fought, we competed,” coach Brad Underwood said. “I’m not going to be happy with it. But we’re gaining ground.”
After losing three straight games, Purdue has re-established itself in the Big Ten with two close victories over Penn State and Illinois. The Boilermakers have won 25 games this year and are one win away from the second most in school history for a single season.
Illinois continues to struggle in close games. The Illini have lost 10 games this season by single digits.
“In high school, I had 50 (points),” Edwards said about his best game prior to scoring 40 points against Illinois. “I think I hit 11 3s or something like that.”
“He was 11 for 14,” Painter chimed in.
Purdue will close out the regular season at home against Minnesota on Sunday. The Golden Gophers are led by Jordan Murphy, who is ranked seventh in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
Illinois hits the road to face Rutgers on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights are ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring