2/27/19 Illinois, Matt Haarms, Kipper Nichols, Ayo Dosunmu

Matt Haarms fights for a rebound with Illinois' Kipper Nichols (2) and Ayo Dosunmu (11) on Feb. 27, 2019. Haarms had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked 5 shots.

Two teams seeking their identity in the conference will meet each other on Sunday.

Purdue (9-5, 2-1) will face Illinois (9-5, 1-2) at 8 p.m., in a game that will be televised by FoxSports 1. It should be an interesting early-season matchup.

For Purdue, it hopes to break from the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and become a contender. For Illinois, it wants to have a winning season and return to the NCAA Tournament play for the first time since 2013.

Coach Brad Underwood is in his third season in Champaign. Prior to coming to Illinois, he coached three seasons at Stephen F. Austin where he won 86.4 percent of his games. He followed that with a single season at Oklahoma State where he was 20-13.

The Illini are coming off a season where they were 12-21 overall and 7-13 in the Big Ten. They played Purdue once last season on Feb. 27, 2018 in Mackey Arena.

The Illini were very competitive with the Boilers, who eventually tied for the regular-season Big Ten crown. Purdue won that game, 73-56. No Illinois player scored in double figures – the only time one of its players did not reach double figures all last season.

In that game, Purdue center Matt Haarms had his first double-double of his career with 21 points and 10 rebounds. With 9:43 to go, the two teams were tied at 48. Then Purdue outscored the visitors 25-8 the rest of the way.

“This was a dogfight, you can look at the final score,” Coach Matt Painter said after last season’s battle with Illinois. “That’s the way it is when you play his teams … I like the fact, if I was on their side of things, is that they’re different, and when you prepare to play Illinois you have to prepare differently. I think that gives them an advantage, and obviously they play extremely hard.”

The 2019-20 version of the Illini is different than last season, though, particularly at center.

Three players are double-figure scorers, led by Ayo Dosunmu, a 6-5 sophomore guard, who averages 15.8 points per game. Dosunmu, who has taken the most shots on the team (89 makes out of 185 attempts), is shooting 48.1 percent from the field but is shooting 28.0 percent from 3-point distance (14 of 50).

Dosunmu led the Illini in scoring during Thursday’s loss at Michigan State, with 18 points on 8 of 20 from the field and 2 of 3 from the line.

Kofi Cockburn, a 7-0 freshman center from Jamaica, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 15.2 points per game. He is the leading rebounder, averaging 9.6, and leads the team with 21 blocked shots. The third-leading scorer is Andres Feliz, a 6-2 senior from the Dominican Republic. He averages 11.5 points per game.

Non-starter Alan Griffin, a 6-5 sophomore guard who averages 9.0 points a game, was a key contributor at Michigan State on Thursday. He had 17 points and 9 rebounds in the 76-56 loss in East Lansing.

Comparatively, Purdue has three players averaging in double figures: Matt Haarms (12.1 points per game), Jahaad Proctor (11.8) and Eric Hunter Jr. (11.3).

Proctor has taken the most shots on the team – 149 – 36 fewer than Illinois’ leading shot taker, Dosunmu. Proctor is shooting 38.3 from the field.

Trevion Williams  recently has played at the same time as Haarms but started the season as a substitute center. Williams is Purdue’s leading rebounder at 9.1 per game despite only playing 19.1 minutes per game, seventh on the team in minutes played.

• Purdue has won the last four games vs. Illinois. In addition to the 2019 win in Mackey, the games have gone like this: Feb. 22, 2018: Purdue 93, Illinois 86; Jan. 17, 2017: Purdue 91, Illinois 68; March 11, 2016: Purdue 89, Illinois 58.

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