Yes, the Fighting Illini came in ranked No. 11 in the nation and yes they had a sparkling 13-1 record. But in the parity-filled world of college hoops, national rankings and impressive records mean little from game to game.
They mean even less when a team is playing on the road in the toughest basketball conference in the country.
Illinois has played well during its strong start, but what people forget about Purdue is that it has been competitive all season.The Boilermakers have lost five of their six games by less than 10 points. Their biggest loss was a 13-point setback to Notre Dame.
Purdue is a better team than what is record shows, and against Illinois, it proved it. The Boilermakers, played hard and they were tough, and on most nights, that is a recipe for success.
It doesn’t hurt that Terone Johnson lit up Illinois for a career-high 25 points. Johnson was thrilled about the win, the kind of win that can jump-start a team that has struggled to find consistency.
“It means a lot,” Johnson said in a post-game press conference. “It’s like of like coach said in the locker room, ‘We just went out there and did it, so why couldn’t we have been doing it before?’”
It’s a tough question to answer, but my guess is Purdue will find a way to build on this win.
As for Illinois, well, it has some work to do if it’s going to be one of the better teams in the conference this year.
“Part of it is the little things matter,” Illinois head coach John Groce said in a post-game press conference. “I told them the other day that if the little things didn’t matter, then they should go ask the guy in bed with a mosquito.”
Little things do indeed matter, and because Illinois failed to do those, Purdue won the game. No upset. Just a win.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist for Rant Sports, and member of the USBWA. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.