CHAMPAIGN (HOI) -- Life in the Big Ten isn't easy, Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood is a big proponent of that statement. Saturday night his team was able to weather the storm of a 16-0 Purdue run, to start the second half, and come away with their fourth win in conference play, a 66-58 win over the Boilermakers.
No one saw the run coming as the Illini dominated the entire first half, taking a 33-23 lead into the break. Underwood says that win was thanks to the veteran leadership and experience his team has with senior guards Da'Monte Williams and Trent Frazier.
"What most people don't understand is you can get pretty dejected when a team is on a run like that and you can let that swell and you can never bounce back from that. In the timeout huddles it was you know 'hey we're fine, just settle in.' It's the value of experience and tremendous leadership," explained Underwood.
Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu was excellent in the first half, scoring 12 points, but didn't register a single point in the second half. A big win for Illinois that they didn't need him to score 20 or more points to get a victory.
"I've been waiting for the night to see how it would be when Ayo didn't score 20 plus or 25. He had 12 in the first half and was terrific in the first half and yet it didn't affect his rebounding, it didn't affect his defense, and guys made plays," said Underwood.
In 11 games now this season, Dosunmu has scored more than 20 points in 7 of those games.
"He makes all the right plays, so there's a whole bunch more to winning a game and having a great game than scoring 25 every night. I know most fans and most people don't want to hear that, but there's a reason Ayo is the best guard in the country and he made just about every play he could to help us win," explained Underwood.
Freshman guard Andre Curbelo also flashed his supreme playmaking in the win, scoring 8 points (4-8 FG) and dishing out 6 assists, two of those assists were alley-oop lobs to Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn registered a double-double with 14 points (7-9 FG) and 10 rebounds, plus 2 blocks. Williams also posted a double-double with 12 points (3-6 FG, 3-5 3PT) and 10 rebounds, plus a steal and a block. Freshman guard Adam Miller scored in double-figures for the first time since playing Minnesota on Dec. 15. Miller had 10 points (2-6 FG, 2-6 3PT) and 3 rebounds.
Next up for No. 15 Illinois (8-3, 4-1) is a road contest against No. 19 Northwestern on Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.