January 11, 2022
(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Trent Frazier scored 29 points for his best Big Ten scoring night in three years and #25 Illinois needed every one of them as the Illini quickly found out that a ranking is just a number, surviving an upset bid by Nebraska, 81-71 in a game that was much closer than its final score.
Frazier scored the final seven points in the game for Illinois (12-3, 5-0) to put up his biggest point total in a conference game since scoring 30 at Minnesota on January 30, 2019.
But this was not the way the Illini wanted to celebrate returning to the Top 25 rankings for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend.
Nebraska (6-11, 0-6) came into the game winless in Big Ten play and as a double-digit underdog, but hit six of their first seven shots - including all four attempts from the three-point arc - to take a surprising 16-4 lead.
The Illini answered as expected, going on a 27-7 run to build the game's largest first half advantage at 31-23. Trent Frazier scored nine points during the run and Alfonso Plummer added eight.
But that's when things fell apart. Illinois went scoreless over the final 4:43 of the first half, committing six turnovers during that stretch to allow the Cornhuskers to end the opening period on an 11-0 run and take a 34-31 lead into halftime.
Illinois didn't take the lead for good until a Coleman Hawkins layup put them up 67-65 with 3:25 to go.
Kofi Cockburn finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds to get his eighth consecutive double-double and 10th of the season. The 7-foot junior now has 38 double-doubles in his career, three shy of tying the all-time Illini record set by Skip Thoren in 1963-65.
Jacob Grandison added 12 points and Omar Payne turned in his best night as an Illini. The 6'10" transfer from Florida scored a season-high eight points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked four shots in just 10 minutes on the court.
Bryce McGowens led Nebraska with 19 points.
The Illini have now won six straight Big Ten road games and 12 consecutive games against conference foes - dating back to last season - and will now return home to face a Michigan team that's been dealing with COVID issues within the program. The Wolverines have postponed their last two games vs. Michigan State and Purdue, but are expected to play in Champaign on Friday.
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