Illinois men’s basketball uses second-half turnaround to take down Michigan in Champaign


Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Alfonso Plummer dribbles and looks for teammates during the Illinois men’s basketball game against Michigan at State Farm Center on Friday night.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

In front of a rowdy sold-out State Farm Center crowd, Illinois took down Michigan, 68-53, to improve to 6-0 in conference play and pick up its sixth straight victory.

Fifth-year senior guard Trent Frazier scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, while junior center Kofi Cockburn notched his ninth straight double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

Despite missing All-Big Ten and All-American center Hunter Dickinson, Michigan hung with Illinois for the entirety of the first half despite never leading in the first 20 minutes of play.

Cockburn got to work early, scoring six of the Illini’s first 10 points of the opening period. Working through consistent Wolverine double-teams, he hit his first two field goals of the game and took control of the paint while being guarded by smaller defenders.

With a four-point lead the biggest advantage through the opening 12 minutes of play, a 7-0 Illini run over two minutes of action put the hosts up 22-13 via an graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer triple, the first 3-pointer by either team and came with just over six minutes to play, and a Plummer deep midrange jumper.

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The Wolverines did not let that big deficit last long, though, going on a 6-0 run over a 90-second stretch, with all six points coming from graduate student guard DeVante’ Jones.

Two more baskets from Cockburn and a trey from Jones sent the Illini to the locker room up 26-22, though they shot just 40% from the field and 11% from beyond the arc. 

After going scoreless in the first half, graduate student forward Jacob Grandison opened the second period with a triple, the Illini’s second of the night. 

A 6-3 Michigan run cut the visitors’ deficit to four points, but a Frazier trey, his first of the night, put Illinois back up by seven with 16 minutes to play.

Michigan used a free throw to reduce its deficit to six, but layups by Cockburn and Plummer pushed Illinois’ lead to double digits for the first time, a 39-29 advantage with 14 minutes left.

Another Wolverine, this time a 12-4 stretch, saw the Illini advantage fall to a single possession, with Illinois leading just 43-41 with nine minutes to play. Two Plummer layups during that run gave him 13 points, his highest mark since Dec. 22.

The Wolverines cut its deficit to a single point 90 seconds later, but a big 7-0 run from Illinois – fueled by a Cockburn dunk, two Frazier free throws and a Grandison triple – put the Illini up by eight with less than six minutes remaining.

Frazier continued his strong second-half performance with 11 straight points for the Illini – two layups, a deep trey and four free throws – with under two minutes to play to put the Illini up by 12, the largest lead of the game.

A triple from fifth-year senior guard Da’Monte Williams gave Illinois a 15-point lead and sealed a gutsy win in Champaign.



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