WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The Purdue men's basketball team finally put 40 minutes of basketball together and the Boilermakers showed toughness down the stretch to hang on for a 68-61 victory over Illinois.
Purdue came into the conference play with the worst record in the Big Ten and a schedule that had the gold and black facing Illinois at home on Tuesday, visiting No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday and hosting No. 8 Ohio State next Tuesday.
The Boilermakers understand with a schedule like that, protecting Keady Court is critical to the team's success.
Senior D.J. Byrd who struggled for most of the first 30 minutes, but down the stretch he made three of his four 3-pointers that sparked a Purdue 16-3 run that flipped the game. With Purdue also grabbed the rebound off an errant free throw, called timeout with 21 seconds left from his knees before falling out of bounds, then grabbed the inbound pass and completed a three-point play to make it a two-possession game.
Byrd finished with 15 points, two assists and a beaming smile across his face.
"Terone hit me on the wing and it was in rhythm so I just caught it and shot it. The next one I caught it and shot it, and then I kind of got lucky on that one dropped in," said senior g/f D.J. Byrd. "You've just got to keep shooting it like the next one's going in."
The Boilermakers now have a record over .500 for the first time all season and an eighth straight victory over Illinois dating back to the second of three meetings during the 2008-09 season.
Brandon Paul looked unstoppable early on for Illinois as the senior scored 13 first half points. But the second half was a different story as Paul added just two points over the final twenty minutes of play. Joseph Bertrand added 14 points and seven rebounds, while Tracy Abrams had 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.
"It's a great win right now and we'll celebrate right now," said Byrd, "In the morning we have to wake up knowing Michigan State's a great team and going there is really tough. They have a packed house almost every night, so it'll be a challenge for us.
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