CHAMPAIGN — Kofi Cockburn had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Ayo Dosunmu scored 12 and No. 15 Illinois beat Purdue 66-58 on Saturday.
Da’Monte Williams added 12 points for the Fighting Illini (8-3, 4-1 Big Ten) in their seventh consecutive conference home win dating to last season. Andre Curbelo, who leads the league in assists, had six.
“I was pleased to see some balanced scoring on our part,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s always good to see that, particularly in conference games.”
Brandon Newman scored 14 points and big man Trevion Williams had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Boilermakers.
Purdue (7-5, 2-3) is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, but Illinois topped the Boilermakers 39-33 on the boards. Illinois shot 48% (25 of 52) from the field, while Purdue was 22 of 56 for 39%.
Purdue turned the ball over 14 times to Illinois’ 12.
“We weren’t giving ourselves as many cracks at it because we kept turning the ball over,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. “We had good stretches in the game, then we had bad stretches. We need to replace the bad stretches with average stretches.”
The Boilermakers started the second half with a 16-0 run to take a 39-33 lead before Illinois found its range from behind the 3-point line. Long shots by Williams and Trent Frazier helped the Illini take the lead for good.
“I take my shots in practice and before the game and when I get the chance, I take them in the game,” Williams said. “And I try to knock them in.”
Purdue jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Illinois slowly began to control the tempo. Fueled by acrobatic passes from Curbelo, both Cockburn and Dosunmu took over early for the Illini. Cockburn had six points and seven rebounds, and Dosunmu scored 12 in the opening period.
Illinois led 33-23 at halftime.
“We just don’t have the offensive flow yet,” Painter said. “When you have inconsistent play, you always want the coach to have the answer. You have to earn the right to win those games. You have to play better.”
Curbelo, a true freshman from Puerto Rico, has shown flashes of brilliance with his passing skills during the young season. Three of his six assists were perfect alley-oops to Cockburn for dunks.
“You should see him practice,” Underwood said of Curbelo. “It’s pretty cool. Passes between the defender’s legs — he does it all. On the court during the game, he is finding his balance. He’s out there probing things and figuring it out.”
Asked why Curbelo doesn’t start but usually enters the game after the 4-minute mark during the first media timeout, Underwood laughed and said: “The floor just opens up out there when he comes in. He changes the game, and tonight he did it on both ends of the court.”
The Illini grinded out another conference win in one of the deepest and most talented leagues in the country.
Illinois could rise a bit Monday after Underwood’s squad took care of business in another Big Ten home game.
Purdue: Hosts Nebraska on Tuesday.
Illinois: Faces a tough conference road game against No. 19 Northwestern on Thursday.