“We got abused on the backboard, and when we needed to take care of the ball, we didn’t do it.’’
Illinois junior guard Tracy Abrams admitted that hearing his coach talk about his team’s lack of toughness was something that he enjoyed.
“As a leader, I put that on my shoulders,’’ he said. “I have to do a better job of preparing my guys and myself to be tough.’’
When asked if the fact that a few of the Fighting Illini, like junior guard Rayvonte Rice, are dealing with some nagging injuries, Abrams was cut off by his coach.
“We have no excuses,’’ Groce said.
And Abrams echoed his coach’s statements, basically saying that wasn’t a factor.
Later, Groce acknowledged that Illinois did have a little different type of practice on Tuesday as Rice was being treated for strained abductor and other players had some bumps and bruises.
“We are nicked up a little bit,’’ he said. “But, we put five guys out there and they put five guys other. It’s January and this is Big Ten basketball. Every team has to deal with that.’’
In the first half, it didn’t look like Rice was suffering with any kind of an injury as he scored 10 points and pulled down four rebounds. But in the second half, Purdue limited the 6-foot-4 junior guard from Champaign Centennial to just one point and one field goal attempt.
“Not really,’’ said Painter when asked if the Boilermakers made any changes at halftime on Rice. “We just tried to keep the ball in front of us. We tried to keep him off his right hand. Basically, we didn’t want him to work downhill going to his right. We tried to work towards that.’’
And Rice wasn’t the only Illini perimeter player to find the going a lot tougher in the second half.