Grades and takeaways: Illinois crushes Northwestern on road

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Sophomore guard Alan Griffin celebrates during Illinois’ game against Michigan State on Feb. 11 at State Farm Center. Griffin scored a career-high 24 points on the road Thursday night at Northwestern.

By Alec Busse, Staff Writer

Sophomore guard Alan Griffin exited the court at the 5:05 mark of the second half to a standing ovation.

Illinois was playing in Evanston, Illinois. According to a Tweet from the Illini basketball team’s Twitter, most of the crowd was decked out in orange and blue. But, Griffin deserved the recognition after making his first five three-point attempts, leading the Illini to a 74-66 victory over the Wildcats to move to 11-6 in the Big Ten.

 

Trent Frazier: B-

In the two-game stretch against the two worst teams in the Big Ten, Illinois wanted to get their junior guard going. On Monday night Frazier went 3-for-8 from deep after going just 2-for-16 in the previous four games. Stacking quality performances in back-to-back games is something that Illinois needs from Frazier before Illinois hits its stretch in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament. Frazier wasn’t able to stack consecutive impressive shooting nights. Frazier did finish with nine points, but he shot an awful 21% from the field.

 

Andrés Feliz: B-

In his last eight games, senior Andrés Feliz has finished in double figures seven times. After going through a slump earlier in the season when it seemed that he had no confidence he has found it again. Feliz struggled in the first half failing to make a bucket, had a couple of threes rattle of the rim. In the second half, Griffin really started to get going, which didn’t require Feliz to be as aggressive as he’s needed to be in previous Big Ten games.

 

Ayo Dosunmu: A

In two games the sophomore has played in since a scary-looking knee injury, guard Ayo Dosunmu has posted 42 points and shot 58% from the field. Dosunmu has become known for his ability to make the right play in “winning time.” But against the Wildcats, Dosunmu started the game 4-of-5 from the field with two pretty mid-range jumpers and a beautiful behind-the-back layup in transition. Dosunmu finished with 13 points in the first half and added eight more in the second half to finish with 21 points. Dosunmu has 63 points in the last three games, he’s playing at another level.

 

Da’Monte Williams: B

Junior guard Da’Monte Williams only has a pair of two-point fields in Big Ten Play after his two-hand slam against Nebraska on Tuesday. During his junior season, Williams has become known for his defense and rebounding. However, often overlooked is his ability to pass the basketball. In the second half, Williams threw a nice lob to Griffin who threw down the alley-oop. Williams never fills the stat sheet, but not all players have to fill it up to be a key contributor.

 

Kofi Cockburn: A

Teams have started to guard freshman center Kofi Cockburn differently in the last several games. Nebraska did a great job of collapsing on the freshman big and making him uncomfortable in the paint; however, Cockburn still posted his 11th double-double on the season as he posted 15 and 10 rebounds. Northwestern held Cockburn to 12-points and seven-rebounds in the first matchup this season. On Thursday night, Cockburn posted 10-points and 5-rebounds in his first 11 minutes on the court. Illinois didn’t go through Cockburn as much in the second half because they hit more jumpers. Cockburn finished with 12 points and 14 points, good enough for his 12th double-double on the season, an Illini freshman record.

Giorgi Bezhanishvili: C+

The Illini sophomore forward has struggled more than ever in his Illini career. In the last five games, Giorgi Bezhanishvili is averaging just 2.6 points and 1.6 turnovers per game. Bezhanishvili only played 13 minutes. Bezhanishvili only posted one bucket, but he did grab five rebounds.

Kipper Nichols: D

The senior forward came in averaging around 15 minutes per game in Big Ten games, but he picked up two soft fouls in less than a minute of playing time. Kipper Nichols didn’t get much of an opportunity in the second half either totaling just four minutes.

Alan Griffin: A+

Sophomore Alan Griffin has averaged 10 points and six rebounds since returning from his two-game suspension. The guard made his first five three-point attempts, which killed Northwestern’s momentum on a couple of occasions in the second half. Griffin looked like he was having fun in the second half flashing a big smile on several occasions. Griffin won’t shoot at that level on a consistent basis, because it just isn’t possible to maintain that on a consistent basis. Illinois is the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten, making under 30% of their three-point attempts, but if Griffin continues to shoot around 40% and if Frazier can get going again this team could be scary come tournament time.

@alec_busse

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