WEST LAFAYETTE – It turns out that the key to defeating a pressure defense is to throw the ball inside a player so big, that the pressure can not bother him.
For Purdue, this player was Matt Haarms and he was gorgeous.
The 7-foot-3 Haarms dominated Wednesday a smaller team from Illinois in all phases, scoring the highest career total of 21 points on 8 shots out of 8, adding 10 rebounds to a career-best five-best career goals. blocks to lead No. 14 Boilermakers to a 73-56 win in front of an announced crowd of 14,804 at the Mackey Arena.
The win was the fourth in a row and 15th in Purdue's last 17 games (21-7, 14-3 Big Ten). The Boilers tied with Michigan State to lead the conference with three games remaining.
Haarms said that he knew that Illini (10-18, 6-11) would be aggressive on the defense and would try to outscore the post with center 6-9 Giorgi Bezhanishvili. This opened the lob above, which has become a game of choice for boilermakers.
"They know that they do not have the size, and that's the reason they play so aggressively," said Haarms, who had a pair of big scratches on his neck, proof of the physical character of the match. "They know that they can not stop a guy when they play behind, they can not stop a bigger player in the post, so they have to play in front, and we could exploit that today. "
One of those lobs at the top came with 6:17 remaining. Nojel Eastern managed a perfect pass from the top of the key all over the defense, and Haarms managed to clear a wide under-basket for an undisputed two-handed dunk. The game completed a decisive series of 12-0 that turned a draw into a 60-48 lead for the Boilermakers.
Carsen Edwards, who scored 23 points, scored five in this race, including a strong contact encroachment that punctuated a muscle flex on the front line in the back of the race. Illinois.
"I was just hoping to beat my dribbling man," Edwards said of his training at the edge. "(The Illini) have a precious help. In fact, they do not even watch the ball from time to time, they take over their man and stay stuck on their man.
"So, once you beat them dribbling, their help is late or they do not help. I just tried to beat them dribble and make a game after. "
Grady Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger striker, played a key role early in the second half, scoring two times behind the defense on missed fouls for a wide open set of hits after pretty passes. The senior, playing in the first of his last two games at Mackey, finished with 11 points and six rebounds, including a decisive 3 points in the final minutes.
Nojel Eastern added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Ryan Cline scored eight rebounds and seven assists.
Purdue has improved to 14-0 at home this season and can finish a perfect season at West Lafayette with a win over Ohio State on Saturday.
Note: Matt Painter was named one of the 15 finalists of the Naismith National Coach 's Naismith Award on Wednesday. Painter is one of three Big Ten coaches on the list, joining Tom Izzo from Michigan State and John Beilein from Michigan.