Purdue 75, Illinois 60: Woeful second half dooms Illini

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Illinois guard Tracy Abrams, right, shoots under pressure from Purdue guard Ryne Smith in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. Purdue defeated Illinois 75-60. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Early in the second half, Illinois junior guard Brandon Paul rose for a textbook three-point shot. The basket closed the deficit to five and suggested a possible rally.

But the play proved to be Illinois’ last hurrah Saturday. Purdue was only getting warmed up.

The Illini suffered close to an eight-minute drought, and the Boilermakers seized control. Numerous turnovers led to an 18-0 run Purdue used to pummel Illinois 75-60.

The Boilermakers led by 27, 58-31, with just under 10 minutes left.

“It’s hard to guard layups when you turn it over,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.

The rout was a lousy way to end the year for the Illini (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten).    

Paul had a game-high 17 points. His steal and dunk gave Illinois its largest lead, 23-15, with 4:40 left in the first half. 

The Boilermakers (12-3, 2-0) made three consecutive three-pointers during a 9-0 run and were up 26-24 at the break.

Purdue guard Ryne Smith (12 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting) started the second half onslaught with consecutive three-pointers.

Illinois’ sloppy ballhandling ruined any chance it had. The Illini threw the ball away 17 times and had only 10 assists. Purdue’s quick guards jumped the passing lanes to intercept a bunch of lethargic passes.

One typical turnover led to a thunderous dunk by Purdue forward Kelsey Barlow (14 points) on a two-on-one break. Nine Boilermakers scored. Former Young star Anthony Johnson contributed seven points off the bench.

By the time D.J. Richardson (15 points) finally ended the disastrous sequence with a jump shot, Purdue had outscored Illinois 37-6.

“We made too many mistakes, too many careless plays, including myself, where we were trying to do too much,” Paul said.

Purdue’s defense stymied 7-1 center Meyers Leonard, who scored seven points and was limited to four attempts from the field. 

He also picked up his third foul early in the second half and was forced to sit during the Purdue burst.

Leonard had six rebounds but no blocks or assists.

“When he gets frustrated, he usually doesn’t do something at the other end,” Weber said. 

In his first start of the year, Joseph Bertrand scored eight points but had four turnovers.

“Fortunately after today, it’s a new year,” Paul said.

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