Illinois holds on to late lead in Braggin’ Rights game


Austin Yattoni

Illinois guard Trent Frazier (1) calls out a play as he dribbles up the court during the game against DePaul at State Farm Center on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

By Will Gerard, Staff Writer

Freshman guard Trent Frazier stepped up in crunch time for Illinois with a left-handed, and-one layup over Missouri freshman Jeremiah Tilmon with 2:07 minutes left in the game on Saturday night.

Frazier also sank his final four free throws in a 70-64 Illinois (9-5, 0-2 Big Ten) victory over Missouri (10-3) in the 37th annual Braggin’ Rights game.

He scored a career-high 22 points (5-17 FG, 10-11 FT) while recording three steals and only committing one turnover in 28 minutes off the bench.

“I came in there a little jittery, a little nervous, but I found my way and we got the ‘W,’” Frazier said.

Frazier stepped up in the absence of sophomore Te’Jon Lucas, who scored zero points and played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble; Lucas recorded a fourth personal foul with just over 10 minutes left in the game.

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Frazier is averaging 17.8 points per game over the past four games.

“Trent was huge,” Underwood said. “We put the ball in his hands, (and) he played like a veteran, for the most part; if he had made a couple layups, he would have had a really big night.”

Illinois bounced back from a 74-69 defeat to New Mexico State a week prior at the United Center. The win came in front a sellout crowd of 21,289 at the Scott Trade Center in St. Louis, and the program now leads the all-time series in the city 25-12 after a fifth-consecutive series victory.

“We had a very good week of practice, and we were able to clean up some things,” Underwood said.

Missouri’s only lead occurred when it was ahead 2-0, and it trailed the final 35:25 minutes.

Junior forward Leron Black nearly set a career-high in scoring as he scored 20 points (8-18 FG) and brought down seven rebounds in a team-high 37 minutes. Senior guard Mark Alstork matched Black’s total in the rebound column.

“We established him on the block, and that makes it so much easier for everybody when he gets going,” Underwood said.

Black proposed to his fiancee, Sheila Segura, at the conclusion of the high-energy slugfest.

“I didn’t want to tell coach before because he was going to think that it was going to be on my mind, and he was definitively going to call me soft,” Black joked. “I picked today because both my family and her family came to the game, so it was the only time that we’ve really all been together.”

Illinois outscored Missouri 19-5 to start the game over the first 8:22 minutes, and it also put together a 19-6 run over the final 6:30 minutes of the first half behind a strong defensive effort.

“We threw the first punch, (and) I thought we got them on their heels with our defense,” Underwood said.

Missouri tied a season-high 21 with turnovers – which first occurred in a narrow 82-81 victory over Steven F. Austin on Tuesday – and 16 of those turnovers occurred in the first half.

Underwood called the first half the best Illini defensive half so far this season. Illinois outscored Missouri 25-15 on points off turnovers.

“We fought through some adversity, which I fully expected at halftime,” Underwood said. “I told our staff at halftime, this won’t be as easy as it looked in the first half.”

Missouri outrebounded Illinois 41-33.

Senior guard Kassius Robertson and senior forward Jordan Barnett led the Tigers with 22 and 19 points, respectively. The pair shot a combined 12-14 from the charity stripe, and Robertson was the only one to come off the floor for a mere two minutes.

Barnett recorded a double-double after securing 10 rebounds. He averaged 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds over the seven games leading up to the Braggin’ Rights affair.

Both teams shot a similar mark from the field (Illinois: 23-59, Missouri: 21-55), although Illinois was more successful from 3-point range (Illinois: 6-14, Missouri: 5-27) and took better care of the ball, only committing 10 turnovers.

Freshman Mark Smith scored 11 points (4-7 FG, 2-4 3FG), stole the ball twice and recorded three turnovers. Eight of his points came in the first half, and his last basket, which was a contested reverse layup with 3:20 minutes remaining, put the Illini ahead 62-53.

“If it wasn’t Trent tonight, it would have been Mark in that situation,” Underwood said.

Tilmon, who was a highly-rated recruit out of East St. Louis, and initially committed to Illinois before signing with Missouri, scored seven points (3-5 FG) and secured seven rebounds, however, he was mostly limited on the night by a swarm of Illinois defenders fronting the post.

Underwood said junior forward Michael Finke and Black did a successful job limiting post-touches, which affected the overall effectiveness of the Tiger offense.

“They do a great job of spreading it out, forcing help and that’s where they get their threes,” Underwood said.

Illinois shot 18-27 from the free throw line, and Missouri finished 17-21.

Finke scored 10 points (3-5 FG) and snagged five boards in the debut of a new haircut, and he played a season-high 34 minutes.

“I hope this (win) gives us our team a tremendous amount of confidence as we head into conference play,” Underwood said.


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Correction:  A previous version of this article incorrectly credited the 74-69 defeat to UNLV. The loss was to New Mexico State. The Daily Illini regrets the error.