Illinois men’s basketball falls to No. 11 Arizona despite big games from Plummer, Frazier

Trent+Frazier+dribbles+down+the+sideline+in+the+second+half+of+Illinois+game+against+No.+11+Arizona+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Saturday.+The+Illini+struggled+late+in+an+83-79+loss.

Mark Capapas

Trent Frazier dribbles down the sideline in the second half of Illinois’ game against No. 11 Arizona at State Farm Center on Saturday. The Illini struggled late in an 83-79 loss.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

After a strong first half, the Illini offense stalled in the final five minutes, as Illinois fell to No. 11 Arizona, 83-79, at State Farm Center on Saturday evening.

Trent Frazier notched 27 points on 60% shooting and Alfonso Plummer registered 25 points on 50% shooting with both guards hitting six triples, while Kofi Cockburn picked up yet another double-double with 13 point and 13 rebounds.

Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin scored a game-high 30 points, while sophomore Kerr Kriisa added 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“We gave up easy buckets to (Mathurin and Kriisa) down the stretch, and that can’t happen,” Frazier said. “We just gotta do a better job defensively on getting stops and, you know, turning those into baskets on the other end.”

Arizona’s offense got to work quickly, with sophomore Azuolas Tubelis hitting a layup on the Wildcats’ first possession of the evening. A Plummer triple gave the Illini a brief lead before an 8-0 Arizona run gave the visitors a 10-3 lead, their biggest of the first half.

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    The Illini battled back, though, with Plummer, Jacob Grandison and Cockburn all scoring early to cut their deficit to just one point.

    Neither team was able to really pull away midway through the first half before the Illinois offense caught fire. 11 straight points from Frazier, including three treys, helped fuel a 19-0 Illini run, which also featured points from Plummer and Cockburn and gave the hosts a 13-point lead, their largest of the evening.

    Down 37-24, Arizona didn’t stay cold for long, using six points from sophomore Bennedict Mathurin, who had a game-high 17 points at halftime, en route to a 10-0 run that saw it cut its deficit to three points with just under four minutes left in the half.

    A Frazier jumper and Grandison triple opened up an eight-point lead before four straight points from the Wildcats to close the half sent the Illini into the locker room with a four-point advantage, 42-38.

    Heading into the second half, Frazier led the Illini with 16 points, though the Wildcats dominated the offensive glass, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds and recording 14 second-chance points.

    Arizona continued its momentum from the end of the first half with a 5-0 run to start the second 20 minutes, which included two blocks from Wildcat junior center Christian Koloko on Cockburn. The stretch also gave the Wildcats their first lead since the 10:22 mark in the first half.

    An 8-2 Illinois run saw the hosts open up a five-point lead via 3-pointers from Grandison and Frazier and two free throws from the latter.

    That didn’t last long, though, as Arizona used a 12-0 run over the span of two-and-a-half minutes to take a seven-point lead with just over 12 minutes to play.

    A Grandison triple ended that run, and it kickstarted a 14-4 Illini run that saw Illinois retake the lead with just under 10 minutes to play, with Plummer hitting two treys and two free throws during that stretch.

    Cockburn got his revenge on Koloko, scoring five straight points on two layups and a free throw to give the Illini a 69-67 lead with just over six minutes to play.

    “(Cockburn) really helped us down the stretch,” Frazier said. “Obviously, he didn’t have that 20-point night, but that stretch where we kept going to him was really big. … I’m always going to have confidence in him to keep throwing that ball in there, whether he scores zero or 20.”

    Arizona used a 6-0 run over the course of less than 60 seconds to open a four-point lead with five minutes left before a Plummer trey, his sixth of the night, cut the Illini’s lead to a single point. 

    After the Wildcats extended their lead to three, a 4-0 run from the Illini put them right back in front with 2:35 to play. Arizona didn’t let that stand for long, using layups from Tubelis and Mathurin to retake its three-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

    With less than a minute to play, Plummer was called for a five-second violation, and Arizona sealed the win with free throws.

     

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