WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What does an offense look like when it stumbles into quicksand?
Illinois might have found that out Tuesday night.
For the first 12 minutes, Illinois' offense looked more like a synchronized swim team — every part working in sync. But after senior guard Demetri McCamey picked up his second foul and sat the rest of the first half, it re-vitalized Purdue, deflated the Illini and set the Boilermakers on their way to a 75-67 victory at Mackey Arena.
In Illinois' eyes, two foul calls affected the course of the game enough to deny the Illini a chance to turn a page in their lackluster season heading into the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
"I'm very disappointed Demetri got two cheap fouls," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "There's a foul on every possession and it was real disappointing that he had to sit. When he went out, that was a big difference in the game."
Before McCamey's exit, the Illini (18-12, 8-9 Big Ten) were putting on one of their awe-inspiring offensive displays that makes their record seem like a ruse. Illinois was 13-for-17 and had a 31-18 lead. Then, with 7 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the first half, McCamey picked up his second touch foul and he took a seat on the bench.
"It's a little bit (frustrating)," McCamey said. "But the refs control the game with foul calling and they thought it was a foul so I can't complain."
With McCamey out, Weber watched as the sixth-ranked Boilermakers (25-5, 14-3) eventually stormed back with a 12-0 run featuring a barrage of 3-pointers. In the nearly eight minutes McCamey sat, Illinois committed four turnovers and shot just 3-for-10.
"It went so quick," Weber said. "They went boom, boom, boom with four 3s in that stretch. We have enough guys that have played a lot of minutes … you have to have poise."
Purdue tied the score 37-37 at halftime and led the entire second half as JaJuan Johnson finished with 23 points and E'Twaun Moore had 18.
The irony is that in recent weeks, the Illini offense hasn't been helpless when McCamey sits. Sophomore Brandon Paul had proven himself capable of handling point guard duties and, gradually, Illinois had improved when McCamey was on the bench.
But the Illini had that familiar look about them when McCamey was out. Ball movement ceased and everyone looked at the next guy to make a play. They had the same look the Illini had down the stretch when the game was still in reach. McCamey converted a 3-point play with 6:17 remaining then did not hit another field goal until there were 41 seconds left.
"We were playing the No. 6 team in the country … we had them on their heels," Weber said.
Until Purdue knocked the Illini back on theirs.
Illinois falls apart in 75-67 loss to Purdue
Illini run up big lead but can't hold back Boilermakers after McCamey picks up 2nd foul
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