The Associated Press
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — D.J. Richardson scored 18 points and Illinois opened up a big first-half lead that buried Purdue 79-59 on Wednesday night.
The win was the third straight for Illinois (18-8, 5-7 Big Ten), which is clawing its way back into the postseason picture. The other wins were resume-builders over No. 1 Indiana and then-No. 18 Minnesota.
A dunk by Tyler Griffey with 8:46 remaining put Illinois up 64-46. The margin was too much for a Boilermakers team that had already tried to dig out of a 16-point first-half hole.
Griffey scored 12 points and Joseph Bertrand had a career-high 12 rebounds.
Terone Johnson led Purdue (12-13, 5-7) with 18 points. Boilermakers coach Matt Painter was ejected for arguing with official Tim Clougherty with just over eight minutes to play.
Illinois led 43-29 at the half, putting up is highest first-half point total since it had 47 against Auburn in an 81-79 win on Dec. 29.
In the second half, the Illini pushed the lead to 25 on a bucket by Bertrand with just over six minutes to play.
Illinois didn't have much offense from its usual leading scorer, Brandon Paul, who finished with three points. But they didn't need much from him.
Eight Illinois players got on the scoreboard, including seven who scored at least eight points. Point guard Tracy Abrams had 13.
And Illinois limited its mistakes, with 11 turnovers. Purdue, which averages 12.5 turnovers a game, had 10 by halftime and finished with 17. Two were passes tossed well out of bounds and to no one in particular.
The first, by Johnson, flew 10 feet over the head of D.J. Byrd, who appeared to be its target. Byrd closed his eyes in frustration while Johnson stretched his arms out and dropped his jaw open wide.
The Illini pulled down 44 boards, 20 of them on offense.
Abrams had seven of Illinois' 14 assists. He set the tone early, softly tossing a ball over a defender to Nnanna Egwu for a dunk that gave Illinois its first lead, 6-4.
Purdue had won eight straight against the Illini. Some of Illinois' worst recent memories involve the Boilermakers, including a 68-61 loss in this year's Big Ten opener for both teams.
And the man responsible for a number of those bad memories is Byrd.
Illinois, as coach John Groce said at the time, got "out-toughed" by the physical Boilermakers in January, and Byrd in particular. That defeat sent the Illini skidding, with losses in six of their next eight games, due in big part to poor shooting and weak defense.
But Byrd came into Champaign on a slump, failing to score from the field in Purdue's previous two games.
Byrd didn't score Wednesday until hitting a 3-pointer almost eight minutes into the game. The shot was a big one, pulling Purdue to within 19-16. But, at least on offense, he went quiet again, finishing with 10 points. Four of them came in garbage time.