CHAMPAIGN — Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter is hoping the Illinois Fighting Illini do not suddenly reacquire their shooting touch.
After shooting better than 50 percent on shots inside the arc in their first 15 games, the Fighting Illini were an woeful 34-of-105 from that range in losses at Wisconsin (95-70) and at Northwestern (49-43) this past week.
Painter knows with Illinois returning to the State Farm Center for tonight’s 8 p.m. game against his Boilermakers, the Illini (13-4 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) are going to play better, but he hopes it isn’t too good.
“They haven’t had down performances at home. Our focus goes on how they played against Penn State and Indiana,’’ said Painter about Illinois’ first two wins in Big Ten play. “The thing that really concerns me, they are really struggling shooting the basketball, yet they have guys that can shoot. Whenever that happens, you don’t want to be the team they take it out on, when they shoot 70 percent from the field in a game.’’
Considering his team scored a season-low 43 points on Sunday, Illinois coach John Groce isn’t concerned with his team’s offensive execution.
“We have to continue to execute,’’ he said. “I though we executed fairly well on Sunday. We just have to step up and make a few more shots.’’
And that could be difficult again tonight as the Boilermakers (11-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten) are holding their opponents to 41 percent shooting overall and to just 45 percent inside the 3-point arc.
“It looks to me that their defense is continuing to improve and get better,’’ Groce said. “They have been playing a lot of guys. I think they have had seven different lineups in their last 10 games.’’
The one consistent in all but game this season with the Boilermaker lineup has been sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson and senior guard Terone Johnson. Those two are the leading scorers for Purdue, combining for 25 points and 6.1 assists per game.