Notes, player grades: Illinois men’s basketball rallies late to pick up big road win at Indiana


Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer shoot a 3-pointer during the first half of Illinois’ 74-57 win over Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday. Plummer recorded 14 points, while senior guard Trent Frazier scored a game-high 23 points and received an ‘A+’ grade.

By Josh Pietsch, Sports On-Air Editor

Illinois was in a dog fight for the first 30 minutes in Bloomington. Then, with just over nine minutes left, the Illini closed out the game on a 22-8 run to defeat the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall, 74-57. 

Indiana came to play. Coming in with a great home record, the Hoosiers played great defense out of the gate and frustrated Kofi Cockburn and Illinois’ shooters, taking a two-point lead heading into the break despite star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis getting into foul trouble early.

However, even with TJD coming back in the second half, Illinois held the big man to just six total points, began to shoot very well and utilized Kofi Cockburn to win by 17 against a tough Big Ten opponent on the road. 

Trent Frazier led the game with 23 points, while Cockburn added in 17 for his team.

In-game adjustments

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood has struggled to make in-game adjustments in his career, especially in big games. All Illini fans remember the tournament game this past season against Loyola-Chicago and Illinois’ inability to adjust on either side of the ball.

However, on Saturday, Underwood made productive adjustments at halftime, eventually leading his team to a big road win.

The Illini pressured Indiana’s guards more to force tougher shots, and on the offensive side of the ball, they got Cockburn more touches to open up the offense. Kofi scored 12 points in the second half compared to just five in the first. 

The changes made by Underwood at half, and better execution by the players, helped Illinois take the lead and break out to a double-digit victory.

Frazier game

After struggling to get going in Illinois’ previous contest against Wisconsin, Trent Frazier had one of his best games of the season at Indiana.

The fifth-year senior scored 23 points, four assists and, per usual, played great defense. He was very efficient, shooting 8-11 from the field and 3-6 from behind the arc.

Trent just continues to make the most out of his extra year at Illinois. This is not the first time this season he’s put the team on his back when the Illini were struggling to build the lead, and he, like Cockburn, opened up the offense by scoring inside and out. 

Let’s do some grades.

Trent Frazier: A+

Not sure I’ve given out one of these in a while. But the grade is self explanatory.

Frazier was efficient, the game’s leading scorer and played great defense. Will he soon get the proper national attention that he deserves? Maybe. Either way, Trent is easily one of the two most important members of this team, and the record wouldn’t be what it is without him

Kofi Cockburn: A-

I thought Kofi was going to struggle a bit more while going up against TJD, but he actually forced the big man into foul trouble. And, after the first half, he didn’t have much of a problem scoring on him for the final 20 minutes. 

The Illini probably would have been winning at the break had Kofi got more touches, so that isn’t totally his fault. He wasn’t the most efficient he’s ever been, but again, he was still the team’s second highest scorer without having his best game.

No double-double on Saturday, as Kofi “only” grabbed eight boards, but to not play nearly your best and still receive an A- is some pretty high praise.

His block on TJD to post-move lay-in on consecutive plays was a National Player of the Year-like moment, helping propel the Illini to a win.

Da’Monte Williams: B+

The ultimate glue guy just seems to always do a bit of everything.

Williams had six points, seven boards, two assists and three blocks while holding Indiana forward Race Thompson in check despite being undersized.

His step-back three in the first half may have come as a surprise, as he doesn’t score like that normally, but Da’Monte finds ways to impact the game that you may not expect. Another good game for the fifth-year senior. 

Jacob Grandison: B-

Grandison ended his shooting slump last game in the win over Wisconsin, and though he didn’t shoot a ton over Indiana, he hit two huge threes while the game was close.

Grandison was 2-4 on his shots, all from three, and also had four rebounds and four assists. But he did have three turnovers and got into foul trouble early in the first half, limiting his minutes.

Still, Grandson’s second three gave Illinois the lead in the second half, and after a very bad first few minutes, the graduate student forward picked it up and helped his team win. 

Alfonso Plummer: B

Plummer has been defended a lot tighter as of late, but he has still found a way to put the ball in the basket.

The sharpshooter had 14 points and four rebounds, but he wasn’t super efficient from the field. Still, he made timely shots and scored while he was defended hard.

I’m not too sure where Illinois would be without Plummet this year, but the Illini need to enjoy him while they can, because the transfer continues to hit tough shots that boost the team.

Andre Curbelo: C

Curbelo played 12 minutes at Indiana and, unlike his teammates, was able to get to the rim in the first half, but struggled to finish.

He finished with three points and a steal on 1-4 shooting, with most of his minutes coming in the first half since Illinois’ starting guards picked it up after the break.

Illinois is going to need Curbelo pretty soon here, but the guard will continue to ease his way in after missing time on two separate occasions. I like where he’s at as of now.

Coleman Hawkins: C-

Coleman is struggling, not only to score the ball but also on the defensive side of the floor. 

He went up strong at the basket in the first half to get to the free-throw line and made both of his free throws, but he only earned nine minutes of playing time. The Illini could have used his size more on defense, especially in the first half, but he wasn’t playing well.

I hope he finds a way to earn more minutes, but times seem to be really tough for Coleman right now. He has the ability to cover a good stretch-four, which he’s done in the past, so we’ll see if he can earn more time on the court to make a difference soon.

Luke Goode: C+

Goode came in and made a three against his home-state team, but he also picked up a flagrant foul on a clear-path play and airballed a second-half three. 

He only played six minutes, probably because of the flagrant, but I’m happy he was able to make a three in his home state.

Omar Payne: B-

Payne came in and played some good defense while Kofi was sitting, and he also grabbed a rebound and a steal in only six minutes of action. 

He forced Trayce Jackson-Davis into two turnovers, slowing down one of the Big Ten’s best big men, so Payne was able to make the most of his minutes.

RJ Melendez: C+

Brad loves defense, so if RJ plays well defensively, he’ll earn some minutes,

He only played eight minutes and didn’t score, but Melendez helped on the defensive side of the ball and picked up two assists on Trent Frazier buckets. 

Final note

This is a good win. Like, a really good win. Indiana came into Saturday having only lost once at home on the season. The Hoosiers beat Purdue at home last month.

I credit Brad and crew a ton for making necessary adjustments at halftime and the players for not playing down to competition since the Hoosiers aren’t ranked. Despite a mediocre first half, everyone was better after the break, and the Illini earned a great road win.

Those are the kind of games that conference champions win.



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