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Good Morning, Illini Nation: Did Purdue create a blueprint?

Jan. 7—Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team:

"Booty ball" has worked for Illinois this season for the same reasons it did for Penn State a year ago. Having bigger guards with skill in post-ups is important. So is having shooters around those mid-range actions.

Also important? Providing space for guys like Marcus Domask — or, at this point, Domask exclusively — to go to work. It's part of the reason why Dain Dainja's playing time has plummeted. Coleman Hawkins is playing at a high level, which inherently limits Dainja's playing time, but Hawkins' ability to stretch the floor is the kicker. With Hawkins pulling opposing bigs to the perimeter, the lane opens up for "booty ball."

At least that's the theory. Purdue pushed Illinois out of rhythm offensively because it elected not to defend Hawkins with Zach Edey. The 7-foot-4 center checked Ty Rodgers instead. That Rodgers is a non-shooter at this stage of his Illinois career and college basketball does not have a defensive three seconds call meant Edey could just camp out in the lane. Rodgers could do what he wanted on the perimeter. Edey knew a shot wasn't going to go up.

Other Big Ten teams are going to see the success Purdue had in that approach — at least before Illinois coach Brad Underwood pulled the trigger on a non-Rodgers lineup — and give it a try.

Now, Edey is unique in college basketball. There are no other players in the country that combine his size, skill and presence. But other Big Ten teams have solid big men they can crossmatch on Rodgers and just let roam the paint defensively. Simply taking up space is a positive in trying to limit Illinois' "booty ball" offense.

Will Michigan State do it with Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper? How about Maryland with Julian Reese? Or Michigan with Tarris Reed? What if Rutgers and Northwestern try something a little different with Clifford Omoruyi and Matthew Nicholson, respectively, because their first crack at it failed spectacularly?

It's at least a question to ponder for Illinois. With Terrence Shannon Jr. unavailable, "booty ball" with Domask seems to be the go-to offensive option. It's not a coincidence he really didn't get going until the second half when Underwood subbed out Rodgers and went with all shooters.