Plummer's School Record-Tying Night Fails to Lift #15 Illini Out Of Upset Loss to 22nd ranked Buckeyes

IlliniGuys Staff

February 24, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was a wild night Thursday at State Farm Center.

Alfonso Plummer scored 26 points and tied a school record, Kofi Cockburn fouled out for the second time this season, and Brad Underwood was ejected for the first time as the Illini head coach.  And #15 Illinois fell victim to Big Ten rival and 22nd ranked Ohio State 86-83 in a game that also saw both teams go on long scoring runs and rally from large deficits.

The loss drops Illinois (19-8, 12-5) a game behind Purdue and Wisconsin atop the Big Ten standings with just three games left on the schedule.

It was the ninth time in Big Ten play that Illinois built a double-digit first half lead, but the first time they didn't turn it into a victory. They built a 21-8 early lead thanks to Plummer.  The conference leader with 2.8 made three-pointers per game had gone a combined 0-for-7 from outside the arc in his last two games, the first time he'd been held scoreless from three-point range in consecutive games all season.  But the southpaw connected on 6-of-7 three pointers in the first half alone to tie his personal Big Ten-high.

Ohio State (18-7, 11-5) scored the last six points of the first half to go into intermission down only 37-36 and came out hot in the second half.  In all, the Buckeyes went on a 22-2 run to take a 52-39 over a discombobulated Illini squad.  The favored home team had just two points with four turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half.

Cockburn wasn't able to come to their rescue.  Saddled with foul trouble for much of the second half, the All-American center managed just three points before fouling out with 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting, his worst percentage from the field since last month's double-overtime home loss to Purdue, in which he also fouled out.

The lack of foul calls against Cockburn drew the ire of Illini head coach Brad Underwood, who drew two technical fouls after halftime and was ejected with 6:17 to go in the game and Illinois down 70-58.  Freshman Malaki Branham, who scored a game-high 31 points, sank the two technical free throws and added a basket to complete a personal 6-0 run and put the Buckeyes comfortably ahead at 74-58, their biggest lead of the game.

That when the Illini made their comeback, going on a 25-10 run with contributions from everyone.  Plummer hit a pair of threes to give him a total of eight on the night to tie the team's single-game record.  Trent Frazier scored eight of his 12 points in the stretch. Coleman Hawkins scored seven of his 10 points and made several hustle plays to close the gap to 84-83.

After Kyle Young made one of two free throws, Illinois had a chance to tie or win the game.  But Frazier's driving attempt to pass to Jacob Grandison for a game-winning three went out of bounds and the Illini ran out of chances.

Grandison finished with 14 points as the Illini now have a quick turnaround before playing at Michigan on Sunday (1pm, CBS).  The Wolverines will be without head coach Juwan Howard, who will be serving the second of a five-game suspension for hitting Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft with his open hand in a postgame skirmish last Sunday in Madison.  Associate head coach Phil Martelli, a longtime head coach at St. Joseph's, guided the team to a win over Rutgers Wednesday night.

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