WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (Ticker) -- Trailing at the half for the first time this season, Illinois and Dee Brown came alive after the break.
Brown scored 14 points in the second 20 minutes and Luther Head added 15 for the game as No. 1 Illinois moved one step closer to matching the best start in school history with a 68-59 victory over Purdue in Big Ten Conference action.
With their 16th consecutive win, the Fighting Illini (16-0, 2-0 Big Ten) tied the 1914-15 squad for the second best start - one win shy of the 1988-89 Final Four edition.
An undersized squad that used quickness and athleticism to beat bigger teams, the 1988-89 squad was very similar to this one with junior guard Brown leading the way.
Entering the contest third on the team in scoring at 13.3, Brown was held without a shot in the first half as the Boilermakers (4-8, 0-2) took a 39-33 lead with a strong inside presence, outscoring the Fighting Illini in the paint, 20-6.
"I challenged them at halftime," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We haven't been in this situation, being behind, maybe Duke (in the NCAA Tournament last season) was the last time we were behind for that long?
"But it wasn't a big margin if it was. When you are on the road like this, we challenged them, see what you are about, see what your character is about? Dee made some shots, Luther made some shots, Deron (Williams) made some great passes, our big guys finally got going. Most importantly, we defended and rebounded."
Brown helped lead the comeback in the second half, picking up an assist on a 3-pointer by Head and tying the score at 41-41 on a long-range shot of his own with 16:27 remaining. Roger Powell Jr. added a dunk and Williams followed with a jumper to cap a 12-0 run.
After the Boilermakers cut their deficit to 50-45, Brown hit three straight 3-pointers to push the lead to 11 points with 8:35 left. He finished 4-of-6 from the arc.
"That was huge," Weber said about Brown's long-range shooting. "Dee made those, Luther made the drive with the lefty layup, and made a couple of 3's that were pretty impressive. (In the first half) Brown just never got involved. He was a little lethargic." Powell scored 13 points and James Augustine had eight and nine rebounds for Illinois, which also captured its 12th straight conference game dating back to last season. It is the team's longest streak since the Fighting Illini won the last three Big Ten encounters in 1955 and their first 10 games in '56.
Matt Kiefer scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half and Carl Landry had 10 of his 15 before halftime for Purdue, which fell to 2-16 against top-ranked teams, including 1-5 at Mackey Arena.
Coming out with a high level of intensity, the Boilermakers took control of the game behind 57 percent (16-of-28) shooting and an 18-10 advantage on the glass. They cooled off in the second half, missing 16-of-24 shots.
"We didn't do it early, they pushed us around, they killed us on the boards," Weber said. "It was 18-10 (on rebounds) at halftime, they just controlled everything. For our sake, they kind of lost that in the second half. Maybe it was a little bit of us or maybe it was them, they don't have quite the depth."