The Big Ten's best frontcourt met the Big Ten's top backcourt and the guards won, as No. 3 Purdue (14-1, 6-0) held off Illinois (10-7, 4-3), 71-60, in front of 10,092 fans at the Assembly Hall, ending the Illini's school-record home winning streak at 19 games.
Purdue's three starting guards combined for 52 points, as Ukari Figgs and Stephanie White-McCarty both scored a game-high 20 points. Illinois' frontcourt was held to 32 points but dominated the boards, as Susan Blauser scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Tauja Catchings had 10 points and 12 caroms.
Long-range bombing by Figgs sparked Purdue to an early lead, as she started the game with two consecutive three-pointers before fellow-guard Katie Douglas hit a runner to make it 8-0 just three minutes into the game. The Illini stayed close, trailing only 16-10 with 9:20 left in the half before the Boilermakers guards took over again. Douglas scored five points, including a trey, in a 9-0 run to stake the visitors to a 25-10 lead. Purdue held a 39-28 lead at the half, as Figgs scored 16 points including hitting 4-5 from long range.
The second half opened as Blauser hit two straight shots to slash the lead to seven points at 39-32. Once again, the veteran Boilermaker frontcourt responded, as Figgs, White-McCarty and Douglas combined for 11 points in a 13-2 run as Purdue built its biggest lead of the game at 52-34 with 14:49 on the clock. Illinois bounced back with a 9-0 run of its own, cutting the lead to 52-43 on an Allison Curtin free throw. The Illini remained close the rest of the game, but every time the lead would dip below double-figures, the Boilermakers would respond to eventually hold on for a 71-60 win.
The guard domination was the story of the game, as Purdue's three starting guards outscored Illinois' trio of Melissa Parker, Lisa Guarneri and Allison Curtin by a total of 52-15. Purdue hit 7-16 from beyond the arc and 20-23 at the free throw line, shooting 45 percent from the field compared to only 40 percent for the Illini including only one three-pointer and 9-14 from the line. The Illini dominated down low, outrebounding the Boilermakers 45-26, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds.
With the defeat, Illinois dropped its first home game since a 91-78 loss to Stanford last season, snapping a 19-game winning streak in Champaign-Urbana. The paid attendance of 10,092 was the third-largest crowd in Illinois history.
The Fighting Illini will look to start a new streak later this week as they welcome No. 17 Penn State to the Assembly Hall on Friday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m.