February 27, 2022
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- All-American Kofi Cockburn scored a game-high 27 points and Alfonso Plummer added 26 as 15th ranked Illinois continued its recent domination over Michigan on Sunday, 93-85.
The win keeps Illinois (20-8, 13-5) in the hunt for their first regular season Big Ten championship since 2005 and the 93 points are the most the Illini have scored in a conference game this season.
"It was a game when the offense was really good and we were up to that standard," said Brad Underwood, who gets his 200th career coaching win at Stephen F. Austin, Oklahoma State, and Illinois.
It also puts another road pelt in the Illini trophy case back home. Illinois has now won 10 of its last 13 Big Ten road games, 15 of their last 19, and a Big Ten-best 20 road wins over the past three seasons.
The Illini never trailed Michigan (15-12, 9-8) thanks to the hot-shooting by Plummer. The grad student tied an Illini team record with eight three-pointers in the loss to Ohio State on Thursday and he brought that heat to Ann Arbor, hitting 5-of-8 from the arc on his way to a 23-point first half as Illinois built a 12-point lead before settling for a 46-38 halftime lead. It was Illinois' highest scoring first half in Big Ten play this season.
"Plummer had as good a first half as I've ever seen, with the exception of a guy named Mike Beasley", said Underwood, referring to the former freshman phenom who he coached as an assistant at Kansas State. "He was electric."
The Utah transfer connected on other long-range shot after halftime. He has hit 14-of-23 three point attempts over the last two games to break out of an 0-for-7 slump. Plummer has 88 three-pointers on the season, passing Jalen Coleman-Lands for the fourth best single season total in team history.
Plummer's hot hand meant fewer scoring opportunities for Cockburn in the first 20 minutes, but that changed after the break. Illinois made the 7-footer a priority and he responded with three quick baskets as the visitors expanded their lead back to 12 points. Cockburn scored 19 points in the second half and shot 11-of-15 from the field overall.
Trent Frazier scored 17 points and hit all three attempts from outside the arc, including a dagger with 45 seconds left to stem a Wolverines run and give the Illini an 87-80 lead. It was a play reminiscent of eight days earlier, when Frazier beat his defender for a crucial trey to close out a win at Michigan State. The sequence reminded Underwood of the late-game game-winners that Illini legend Ayo Dosunmu delivered time and time again during his career in Champaign.
"He took it from Ayo. Ayo doesn't have that (title) any more. I'd like to tell you that was a great play call. No, it was a dude making a great play."
DeVante' Jones scored 25 points for Michigan, which saw its NCAA tournament hopes take a hit. The Wolverines have three games in the regular season plus next week's Big Ten tournament to try to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Ilinois has now won five straight games over Michigan and sets a program record with its third consecutive season of 13 wins or more in Big Ten play. The victory puts them into a second place tie with Purdue with one week to go. The 4th ranked Boilermakers visit Big Ten-leading and 15th ranked Wisconsin Tuesday night.
The Illini resume play Thursday night when Penn State visits State Farm Center (6pm, FS1).
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