Illinois falls to Wisconsin despite Frazier’s scoring outburst


Austin Yattoni

Illinois guard Trent Frazier celebrates after hitting a three during a 78-69 loss against Wisconsin at the State Farm Center on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

By Will Gerard, Staff writer

Wisconsin junior forward Ethan Happ was too much for the Illinois frontcourt to handle, despite the best efforts of freshman point guard Trent Frazier from 3-point range in a nailbiter at the State Farm Center on Thursday.

The Badgers had won just one of their previous nine games, which was a 75-50 home victory over the Illini on Jan. 19, and as a program, they have won 13 consecutive games against the Illini dating back to 2011.

Wisconsin (11-15, 4-9 Big Ten Conference) defeated Illinois (12-13, 2-10 Big Ten Conference) 78-69.

Happ scored 16 of the first 24 points (7-7 FG) for the visitors in the first half, though he proceeded to miss his next three shots, which were all from near the paint area. He was relatively unfazed the rest of the way and finished with a team-high 27 points (12-20 FG) and eight assists.

Frazier carried the Illini offense during an impressive shooting display. He knocked down several contested stepback 3-pointers, and overall, he shot 7-11 from behind the arc en route to a game-high 32 points (10-20 FG).

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“I caught a rhythm tonight and had a flow going,” Frazier said.

It was the third-most points scored by a freshman in program history.

Wisconsin switched ball screens to limit Frazier’s 3-point opportunities, but Frazier consistently thwarted his opponents’ efforts.

“It’s hard to guard that speed,” head coach Brad Underwood said.

During a two-minute run midway through the second half, Frazier made three consecutive shots from deep and scored eight consecutive points for the Illini, and he again replicated the feat with just over three minutes left in the game.

Wisconsin shot 53 percent from both the field and 3-point range behind 20 team assists, whereas, Illinois shot 38 percent in both categories as well while only totaling seven assists.

Junior forward Leron Black primarily provided the rest of the offensive production.

Black recorded his fourth double-double of the season, with 13 points (6-12 FG) and 11 rebounds (six of which were on offense).

Frazier and Black shot a combined 16 of 32 from the field, and the rest of the team was a mere 5 of 22.

“We just have to step up confidently and make shots,” Frazier said. “We’re struggling right now (because) we’re missing open shots, and we can’t really get any points down the stretch because guys are missing shots and are in a slump right now.”

Black was also responsible for ending two sustained scoring droughts, one in the first half which lasted 6 minutes and 22 seconds (from the 7:17 to 0:55 mark) and 5 minutes and 29 seconds in the second half  (from roughly the 11-minute mark to 5:44 left).

Wisconsin freshman guard Brad Davidson and sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl scored 14 (4-7 FG) and 15 points (3-4 FG), apiece.

Happ’s teammates shot a combined 13 of 27 from the field, and he assisted on five of their eight 3-pointers over 40 minutes.

“He draws a lot of attention,” head coach Greg Gard said. “I don’t think there’s been a game where he hasn’t been double or triple-teamed.”

Frazier nailed a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer a few steps behind the top of the key with 10 seconds left in the first half to cut the Wisconsin lead to 36-33. He made his first 3-point attempt within the first two minutes of the second half as well.

Illinois outrebounded Wisconsin 14 to 7 on the offensive glass.

Senior guard Mark Alstork and junior guard Aaron Jordan and scored eight (1-9 FG) and nine points (2-3), respectively.

Junior forward Kipper Nichols and freshman guard Mark Smith hardly saw the floor after getting considerable playing time in the first half. The only basket for the duo came on a Smith and-one layup, and they both played two minutes following intermission.

Nichols was feeling under the weather with a sinus issue, according to Underwood.

“It’s all about the process and we took a step back in the process tonight,” Underwood said. “I still believe this team can go beat anybody in this league.”


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