Illinois men’s basketball fends off late Michigan State rally, grinds out hard-fought 56-55 win


Sydney Laput

Trent Frazier dribbles with the ball during the first half of the Illinois men’s basketball game against Michigan State at State Farm Center on Tuesday night.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Without junior center Kofi Cockburn and sophomore guard Andre Curbelo, No. 24 Illinois did just enough to hold off No. 10 Michigan State, 56-55, in Champaign on Tuesday night.

Illinois had to deal with Michigan State’s size without 7-foot Cockburn, and it struggled in the opening minutes of the half. 

Spartan 7-foot senior forward Marcus Bingham Jr. and 6-foot-9 redshirt senior forward Joey Hauser combined to score the game’s first five points, while the visitors grabbed three offensive rebounds within the first three minutes of the game.

The Illini recorded their first points soon after, with redshirt sophomore forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk going to work in the paint before getting his shot to bank off the backboard and in. A steal and finish at the other end by graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer then cut the Illinois deficit to one.

After Michigan State junior forward Julian Marble II scored his first two points of the night, a 13-2 Illinois run, fueled by 10 points from fifth-year senior guard Trent Frazier, gave Illinois its first lead of the night, a 17-9 advantage.

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A 5-0 stretch from the Spartans cut the Illini lead to three, but another big Illini run, this time 17-6, over the final 10 minutes of the half sent the hosts to the locker room with a 14-point lead, 34-20.

Three 3-pointers during that run – one apiece from Plummer, graduate student forward Jacob Grandison and freshman guard Luke Goode – and points from Bosmans-Verdonk and junior forward Omar Payne gave Illinois a big lead heading into the second half.

Frazier led all scorers with 10 first-half points, moving him into ninth place on Illinois’ all-time scoring list, while Goode had six points off the bench. Scoring just five points in the opening 20 minutes of play, Plummer recorded a team-high three assists before the break.

Michigan State opened the second half on a 6-2 run, which included four points from Bingham Jr., but another Illinois run gave it its biggest lead of the night.

That 6-0 Illini scoring stretch included a Payne and-one layup and a triple from Goode, his career-high third of the night, handing the hosts a 42-27 lead.

Illinois got into foul trouble early in the second half, with Payne, Frazier and Bosmans-Verdonk all picking up their third fouls.

Taking advantage of being in the bonus for a majority of the second half, the Spartans went on a 10-4 to cut their lead to single digits. A Plummer trey put the Illini back up by double digits, 49-37, with just over 10 minutes to play.

The visitors continued to battle, though. A 9-3 run, which included four points from Bingham Jr., a Hauser triple and a jumper from junior guard Tyson Walker, cut the Spartans’ lead to six, their smallest of the half up to that point.

Trading baskets for the next few minutes, neither team could take advantage of their opponents’ offensive struggles.

Four straight points from junior forward Malik Hall cut the Spartans’ deficit to just two points, reducing what was once a 15-point second-half Illini lead to a single basket with 60 seconds to play.

Walker missed what would have been a game-tying with 10 seconds remaining, and Frazier missed a free throw soon after, which could have sealed the victory.

With the Spartans trailing 56-54, Hall was then fouled with 0.2 seconds remaining. He then failed to convert the first and converted the second, and Illinois, despite not scoring a point in the final 5:32 of play, hung on to take down Michigan State by a single point.

Frazier finished the night with a game-high 16 points, while Goode ended the night with a career-high nine points. Plummer also finished the night in double digits, recording 11 points on 4-11 shooting.

Illinois won’t have to travel far for its next matchup, heading north to Evanston to take on Northwestern on Saturday afternoon.



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