By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A mystifying effort on both ends of the floor by Illinois produced a Top 25 upset on Thursday night.
During the second quarter when her team had as many turnovers as made field goals against the Purdue defense in the game, Illinois head coach Shauna Green turned to her assistant coaches with a poignant question: ‘What are we doing?!’
The answer was never revealed as Purdue walked out of State Farm Center with a 62-52 victory thanks to 16 points from Australian native Abbey Ellis.
Ellis, a transfer from California Polytechnic Institute, proved her reputation as a scorer was well founded as the current member of Purdue’s 1,000-point club found the bottom of the net on outside shots and dribble drives throughout the evening.
Illinois found its offensive struggles from the three-point win at Northwestern Sunday followed them back home to Champaign. The No. 21 Illini (16-5, 6-4 in Big Ten Conference) missed 16 of its first 18 shots from beyond the three-point arc. Purdue’s packline and matchup zone defense was content with allowing Illinois, which arrived Thursday night leading the Big Ten by making 40.3 percent of its three-point shots, to fire away from the perimeter.
Illinois opened the game shooting just 4 of 17 from the field with four turnovers as Illini forwards Adalia McKenzie and Kendall Bostic were both scoreless in the 10-minute frame. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Illinois was 8 of 28 from the field but their defense had malfunctioned to the point that Purdue (14-6, 5-5) was 8 of 13 simply on layup attempts.
The 52 points for Illinois was easily the lowest of the first season of the Green era. Thursday night’s effort was the third straight game that Illinois, which averages 79.6 points per game, found themselves out of sorts offensively and a frustratingly quiet night from Genesis Bryant was a major reason. The North Carolina State transfer, who has been Big Ten Player of the Week twice this season, was 4 of 13 from the field and 1 of 7 from three-point range.
Bostic, who had a double-double by halftime of the win on Sunday at Northwestern, had just four points on five field goal attempts in 37 minutes.
Jeanae Terry’s return to Illinois was a successful outing as the former Illini guard, who transferred to Purdue following the 2020-21 season, finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Terry continues her impressive streak as one of three players in the nation (along with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles) to average six points, six rebounds and six assists this season.
Illinois will return home to host Michigan State (11-9, 3-6), which has lost four of its last five games, on Sunday for a 5 p.m. CST tip.
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