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(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.)— No. 5 Purdue (26-5 | 15-5) hosted Illinois (20-11 | 11-9) in its final regular season game. It was the final regular season game in Mackey Arena that was riveting with an electric fan atmosphere in the home of the 2023 Big Ten Conference Champions.

“Mackey Arena is a place that will set off fireworks for two hours.” -Fox Sports Broadcaster Jason Benetti

Benetti’s open to the broadcast of the Big Ten matchup was displayed in the 8-0 start the Boilermakers had from the tip.

Brandon Newman got his second start of the season and showcased the hunger to play with a three-pointer to cap the 11-0 run in the first four minutes.

One of the best starts for the Boilermakers as the team had Braden Smith, Zach Edey, and Brandon Newman scoring five or more points 21-10.

The fighting Illini had to work on a five-minute 12-2 run to be relevant in the game again. That was done without Zach Edey on the floor, and without him, the Boilermakers scored just 2 points.

A factor the Boilermakers need to keep in mind with a grueling tournament schedule the team could embark on

With 3:54 to go, a TV timeout had the game within plenty of reach for Illinois at 30-23. But the Boilermaker’s shots were a lock after the break.

It was the Junior from Valparaiso, Indiana, Brandon Newman that highlighted the first half scoring 15 points, and going 3-6 from the three-point line. Accompanied by Braden Smith’s 14 points. The scoring was infectious for the team going on a 21-6 run to close the first half 47-26.

At the end of the first half, the Boilermakers were shooting off plenty of fireworks in Mackey Arena. Defensively the Boilermakers forced 11 turnovers for Illinois. Shooting 50% from the perimeter and hitting 62% of their shots from the field. Edey only had eight points and the Purdue offense showed positive signs for when foul trouble may arise in the tournament.

Defensively the Boilermakers held Illinois’ Terrance Shannon Jr. down to just five points. Shannon led the team heading into the game averaging 17.2 points per game.

The noise was constant in Mackey Arena as it was sending the best in the Big Ten off with plenty of applause. In the second half, the Boilermakers were met with more of a fight out of the Fighting Illini.

Even with Edey on the floor it still took time for the Boilermakers to slow down the Illinois offense that had all participants add to the score. An Ethan Morton steal for a Caleb Furst bucket would be the break Purdue needed to get Illinois to slow their 16-8 climb back into the game trailing 59-46.

The Boilermakers attempted to work Edey onto the scoreboard more but the overall struggles from the field still could not make a clean separation from Illinois shooting just 32% 65-57.

Illinois was trailing by 21 points at the half and over 24 minutes of play they found themselves knocking on the door behind by four 65-61. Winning the turnover battle themselves 14-11 and threatening the largest comeback in the Big Ten this season.

With 1:17 to go Matthew Mayer went 1-2 on a trip to the line that put the game at an even score for the first time since the opening tip 67-67.

Everyone in attendance was on their feet as the final seconds ran off the clock. Illinois’ impressive second-half push was not enough to overcome Purdue. Despite outscoring the Boilermakers in the second half 45-29 Illinois failed to take a lead the entire game. The final buzzer sounded and the No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers close out the regular season with its 26th win of the year. The Boilermakers had three finish in double figures to push past the Fighting Illini with Newman, Edey, and Smith leading the scoring charts.

BIG PERFORMANCES: Brandon Newman (19 Pts, 5 As, 3 Stls) Zach Edey (17 Pts, 6 Rbs, 2 As), Braden Smith (15 Pts, 3 As, 6-9 FG)

UP NEXT: Purdue will enjoy a double-game bye in the Big Ten Tournament, clinching its fourth number-one seed in school history achieving that in 1988, 1994, and 1996. Matt Painter adds to his legacy by finishing in the top three in seven of the last nine seasons. His 11 top-three finishes are the sixth most in Big Ten history. The Boilermakers tie a school record for 51 wins over a two-year span to add to the history books. Purdue is set to play its first game in the Big Ten tournament on Friday, March 10 at 11:00 AM.

93.5 / 107.5 The Fan

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