Purdue moved to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll six weeks ago for the first time in school history. It was a great and meaningful achievement. But the Boilermakers responded by going 6-2 in their subsequent eight games with zero wins over top-60 KenPom.com opponents and losses at Rutgers and to Wisconsin at home.
It wasn’t a great stretch.
Consequently, and understandably, Purdue was a slight underdog at Illinois on Monday; a loss was the projected outcome. But the nation’s best offensive team performed like the nation’s best offensive team in an afternoon affair, limited All-American Kofi Cockburn, and recorded a 96-88 double-overtime victory that reminded the nation Matt Painter does indeed have a legitimate title contender.
“They’re the best basketball team we’ve played,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood told reporters afterward.
Worth noting: Illinois has played Arizona.
The 50-minute victory was highlighted by Sasha Stefanovic’s 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting and improved Purdue to 6-2 in the first two quadrants with zero additional losses. The Boilermakers now own wins over four top-25 KenPom teams — Villanova, Illinois, Iowa and North Carolina. They remain No. 6 in Tuesday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings with a game at Indiana on tap.
That showdown is scheduled for Thursday.
It’ll be the first of two regular-season meetings between the in-state rivals and an opportunity for Indiana to secure the type of signature win it’s yet to record under first-year coach Mike Woodson, whose Hoosiers are 2-4 in the first two quadrants so far this season with losses to Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State and Syracuse.
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