As a senior guard at East Chicago (Ind.) High School, E'twaun Moore found himself in the shadow of his home state's favorite player.

As a senior guard at East Chicago (Ind.) High School, E'twaun Moore found himself in the shadow of his home state's favorite player.

It didn't matter that Moore led East Chicago to the Class 4A state championship over North Central and its star, Eric Gordon. Moore became The Other Guy. Gordon was the one who earned Mr. Basketball, signed with the state's cherished program and left after his freshman season as the seventh pick in the first round of the NBA draft.

It didn't matter that Moore and three other freshmen led Purdue to a surprising second-place finish ahead of Indiana and Gordon in last year's Big Ten Conference race. Gordon grabbed all the attention and hit the jackpot with the NBA, where he reached double figures for the 23rd straight game Friday.

Chasing Gordon may have helped drive Moore, a second-team all-Big Ten pick last season.

"It was healthy for him,'' said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "As a kid, you want to be that guy. We all want to lead off and play shortstop. That's not always the case. Sometimes guys get away from what's best for your team. E'Twaun has always been a team guy, but that's probably bothered him at times.

"He wants to be the best. I think he's got a lot of time to prove himself.''

With sophomore forward Robbie Hummel's season hampered by a mild stress fracture in a lumbar vertebra, Moore and sophomore center JaJuan Johnson lead No. 12 Purdue into a key Big Ten Conference game at No. 23 Illinois on Sunday. Eight days since playing his last game, Hummel may give it a shot against the Illini, the only team without a Big Ten home loss.

"Tuesday night was a game-time decision, and (Illinois) will be a game-time decision,'' Painter said last week. "Rob's career is more important than our game at Illinois and more important than the Ohio State game.''

Hummel earned preseason Big Ten player of the year. But Moore became the first freshman to lead Purdue in scoring -- averaging 12.9 points per game.

Moore was already accustomed to life in the shadow despite the 87-83 victory for the state title, when he scored a game-high 28 points to Gordon's 25 to avenge a regular-season loss.

"Maybe that's what some people think,'' admitted Moore. "He probably never thought about it. I didn't let it get to me.''

Moore visited the Illinois basketball offices several times before his senior year at East Chicago. An earlier commitment to Illinois from Gordon didn't help while recruiting Moore, who committed to Purdue before Gordon jumped to Indiana.

Last season, Moore reminded everyone what they missed.

He scored 16 of his 24 points in a 6-minute run in the second half to lead Purdue to an 83-75 victory over Illinois in Assembly Hall. Moore hit seven straight field goals for Purdue: drilling two 3-pointers, a floater and a bank shot in addition to finishing on drives in a remarkably complete display of offense.

"That was an amazing show, one of the best against teams that I've coached in the Big Ten,'' said Illini coach Bruce Weber. "The baskets, the fadeaways, he did them all. He got us from every angle and every which way.''

Moore averaged 15.7 points in a four-game span before scoring seven points in the 80-72 overtime loss at Ohio State on Tuesday, when Johnson scored a career-high 30 points. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Boilers after they dropped their first two Big Ten games, including a 71-67 overtime loss to Illinois in the Big Ten opener.

The Illini have lost their last four conference road games, putting more pressure on Illinois to win at home. Illinois guard Chester Frazier acknowledged after the 13-point loss at Wisconsin on Thursday that the game against Purdue is "one of the biggest games of the year.''

After hosting Purdue, Illinois hits the road for games at Northwestern on Thursday and Indiana next Sunday. Illinois' confidence weakened during the road skid, shooting slumped, and Weber is searching for more toughness from a roster that has "sensitive players,'' he said, calling out sophomores Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis.

"This is a huge game,'' Weber said. "You already beat them once. I'm not sure anybody else will sweep them. We've played better and with pretty good energy and confidence at home. I hope it's a factor.''

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.

No. 23 Illinois (18-5, 6-4) vs. No. 12 Purdue (17-5, 6-3)

Noon, Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign (CBS, Illini Radio Network)

ILLINOIS (18-5, 6-4)   ppg     rpg

C Mike Tisdale So. 7-1 11.2 3.9
F Mike Davis So. 6-9 10.5 7.4
G Demetri McCamey So. 6-3 12.0 2.7
G Trent Meacham Sr. 6-2 10.3 2.6
G Chester Frazier Sr. 6-2 5.1 4.7

PURDUE (17-5, 6-3)

F Robbie Hummel So. 6-8 12.9 7.5
C JaJuan Johnson So. 6-10 13.3 5.7
G Keaton Grant Jr. 6-4 8.1 2.6
G Chris Kramer Jr. 6-3 4.9 2.7
G E'Twaun Moore So. 6-3 14.0 4.7

Noteworthy: Purdue leads the series 88-83. The Illini won the last two games played between the two teams. Tisdale scored 18 points to lead five Illini in double figures in the victory at West Lafayette, Ind., in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 30. … Weber needs one victory to reach 250 as a head coach. He is 249-106 in his 11th season overall. … Eddie Johnson and Don Freeman, who were among 30 players with their jerseys honored and hung above the Assembly Hall floor, will be recognized about 15 minutes prior to the Illinois-Purdue game. … Without Hummel, Purdue used only seven players in the 80-72 overtime loss at Ohio State on Tuesday. Purdue starters logged 196 of a possible 225 minutes.

Key for Illini: Get tough. Illinois had some guts during the win at Purdue, easily the biggest victory of the season.

Key for Boilers: If Hummel plays, that's a little more extra depth for a team that has a surprisingly short bench.

Key quote: "We have to anticipate he will play in the game. A week ago at Wisconsin, he made two big threes that won the game. He's a tough kid. He's a competitor and loves to play and plays to win. If he's in the game, like Chester (Frazier), he'll give it a full go and help them be successful.'' -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber, on Robbie Hummel.

Prediction: Illinois 68, Purdue 67