Notes, player grades: Only four Illini able to score in close home loss to Wildcats

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Mark Capapas

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood expresses his frustration during the team’s 83-79 loss to No. 11 Arizona on Saturday. Only four players got on the score sheet in the Illini’s defeat, though Trent Frazier had a night to remember with a season-high 27 points.

By Josh Pietsch, Sports On-Air Editor

Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, Jacob Grandison and Kofi Cockburn. Yup, that’s it. Those four players were able to get in the points column against the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, while the rest of the Illini were left scoreless.

Illinois took a double-digit lead in the first half, and Trent Frazier had one of the best games of his Illinois career against highly-rated Arizona, finishing with 27 points, including multiple personal runs to give Illinois momentum. But, his valiant effort wasn’t enough.

The only other Illini to play more than five minutes were Da’Monte Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Omar Payne and Luke Goode, all of whom weren’t able to hit a shot.

Arizona was led by star guard Bennedict Mathurin, who scored 30 points for the Wildcats. Their impressive big man Christian Koloko was held to just four points and seven rebounds, but guard Kerr Kriisa added 19 impressive points in an Arizona road win.

Where’s Curbelo?

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Illinois and staff haven’t publicly announced yet why point guard Andre Curbelo has been missing time, but the Illini could have really used him once again against Arizona.

The Wildcats pressed in the full court and were able to force a total of 16 Illinois turnovers, which Curbelo almost surely would have helped with. He also has shown an ability to score points against every team he’s faced, which, once again, Illinois could have used.

We don’t know exactly when he’ll return, but when he does, Illinois will be a better team.

Let’s get into player grades.

Trent Frazier: A

Awesome game. Frazier went on a personal 11-0 run in the first half to give Illinois a lead after going down seven early, igniting a soldout and rowdy State Farm Center. 

He shot 9/15 from the field and 6/11 from three, both very impressive.

Trent came back for a fifth season for a reason, and it was for nights like these. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t pull out a win, but his scoring and defense almost propelled the Illini over a very impressive Arizona team.

Alfonso Plummer: A-

Plummer recorded his fifth-straight 20+ point game on Monday, finishing with 25 points. Boy, has he been awesome for Illinois.

The only reason I don’t give him as high a grade as Trent, though, is because he missed a few open threes. I understand Plummer has the ability — and showcased it against the Wildcats — to hit tough contested 3-pointers, but the wide open ones are nearly free.

Plummer finished the night shooting 8/16 from the field and 6/14 from three, which is very good. Despite the missed threes, I’m still loving what he’s bringing to this team and excited for him to keep it up. 

If everyone on the team received an “A-” grade, the Illini would be undefeated. 

Jacob Grandison: B+

The third-highest scorer for Illinois, Grandison finished the night with 14 points and was able to play good defense against multiple Wildcat scorers. 

He shot 5/14 from the field and 4/9 from three. One of those stats a lot better than the other. He took a few questionable deep threes, none of which went in, which is why his grade isn’t higher.

But, Grandison makes the open ones and has been a valuable asset for the Illini in 2021. If he keeps it up, Illinois can be very competitive for a Big Ten championship once again.

Kofi Cockburn: C

Like the three people listed above him, he scored, but I’m not as impressed as other people may be. 

His 13-point, 13-rebound night was good enough for yet another double-double, but there were a lot of things I didn’t like. The shots he had blocked, the turnovers, the 50% free-throw shooting weren’t by any means impressive, and possibly the worst of all was his 5/15 (33%!) shooting night from the field. 

This is your team, Kofi. If you want to be in consideration for National Player of the Year, you have to play better against top-tier competition, and you surely can’t be taking questionable jump shots late in games.

Da’Monte Williams: D

Da’Monte Williams rebounded, which I always like. His defense was also pretty good, aside from a couple lost possessions. Ready for the bad?

Williams was called for a technical foul in the first half while Illinois was up nine, leading to extra free throws and a possession for Arizona. Leaders don’t do that.

Williams came back for a fifth year, like Frazier, but one has stood out over the other. After leading the country in 3-point percentage last season, he’s shooting 27.8% this year. 

Coleman Hawkins: D-

He didn’t cost Illinois the game, which is why there’s no “F” here, but boy, has he been struggling.

Hawkins was unable to score, was 0/3 from the field, recorded three fouls and had two turnovers. 

Even if his ability to score is low, Hawkins has played solid defense in previous games, which he didn’t do tonight. Both sides of the ball will have to improve if he wants to continue to start. 

Omar Payne/Luke Goode: D+

They didn’t do anything great. Payne couldn’t score and showed some butterfingers, but  he grabbed a few boards. Goode was unable to score, or even put up a shot for that matter, in his first huge game as an Illini.

Right now, I’m not worried about them, but they’ll have to step up at some point for Illinois to have a successful end-of-the-year run.

 

@JPietsch14

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