By Drew Kamaski | @d_kamaski14
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue defeated Illinois, 72-58 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday. The final score did not fully reflect the intensity that Illinois displayed in the 14-point loss.
The fifth-seeded Boilermakers (20-11), who advanced to a quarterfinal game against No. 4 Indiana on Friday afternoon, led by five points with less than two minutes to play. In the second-round meeting between the Boilermakers and Fighting Illini, each team attempted to control the tempo without any success.
“It was a game of runs,” said Purdue junior guard Andreona Keys, who scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, with six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
The Boilermakers opened the game with a 9-2 run. Keys would find her range towards the end of the quarter scoring the teams last seven points. Purdue continued to run its offense efficiently throughout the quarter, finishing with a 20-8 lead.
Illinois (9-22) found its footing in the beginning of the second quarter after going on a 10-3 run. The run allowed the Fighting Illini to claw their way back into the game to trail by only five at the half.
Several Boilermakers rose to the occasion in the second half, including senior guards Ashley Morrissette, who finished with 13 points, and Bridget Perry, who scored 16. Freshman forward Ae’Rianna Harris had five blocks and pestered any Fighting Illini player attempting to drive to the basket.
Keys was a major influence, with 19 of her points coming in the second half. The junior guard, who averaged 10.2 points per game in conference play throughout the season, was praised by head coach Sharon Versyp following the game.
“Keys was just, what I always expect from her,” said Versyp. “And now you really saw it in the stat sheet today. Every part of her game was going.”
Versyp wasn’t the only coach to recognize Keys performance. Illinois head Coach Matt Bollant also commented on the junior from Atlanta, and how she managed to sneak under his team’s radar.
“I didn’t realize there’s such thing as a quiet 26,” said the fifth-year Illini coach. “I know she was making shots in the second half, but when I saw the box score, that’s more than I realized. She did it just kind of quietly.”
Keys was the determining factor in the victory against Illinois. After the Fighting Illini tied the game at 36 with 6:22 left in the third, Keys seemed to turn it up to an even higher level of play.
“I told my team that we didn’t come here for one game, and we didn’t want to go home today,” said Keys when asked what motivated her. “And that’s really all that I needed to keep going and push through that game.”
The only time Purdue met Indiana this season, the Hoosiers got the best of the Boilermakers, 74-60, on January 19 at Bloomington.
Now the two play for a semifinal spot on neutral ground tomorrow, with Versyp emphasizing the importance of defense against the Hoosiers.
“They’re a good, shooting basketball team,” she said. “So we’ve got to be able to limit some opportunities.”
Purdue will have to close down the perimeter if they plan to beat Indiana. The Hoosiers shot 47 percent from three-point range converting on 7 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first meeting. The two in-state rivals face off as the second game of the afternoon double-header, taking place 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Northwestern-Ohio State game.