January 25, 2022
(Cover photo courtesy Joe Clark/IlliniGuys)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Trent Frazier scored a game-high 16 points as All-American center Kofi Cockburn watched in street clothes to see 24th ranked Illinois upset #10 Michigan State 56-55 and reclaim first place in the Big Ten.
The Illini survived another cold offensive finish to hold onto the win. Alfonso Plummer drained a three-pointer to give Illinois a 52-39 lead with 9:34 left to play. But Illinois (14-5, 7-2) managed just one field goal and two free throws the rest of the way.
That allowed Michigan State (15-4, 6-2) to chip away at the lead and close to within 56-54 in the final minute. But Malik Hall hit just one of two free throws with :00.2 seconds on the clock to keep the Spartans from forcing overtime.
The game wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. With Cockburn missing his second game in a row due to concussion protocol, the Illini jumped out to an early 17-9 lead behind ten early points from Frazier. The senior not only set the pace on offense but held Spartans star freshman Max Christie scoreless in the first half. The Arlington Heights native came into the game averaging 10.5 points per game this season - and 14 points on average over his last four outings - but was just 1-of-8 shooting for two points tonight.
The Illinois defense stymied Michigan State into a season-low 20 first half points. The Spartans went into halftime with more turnovers (nine) than field goals (eight).
The second half wasn't much better as Michigan State couldn't get closer than nine points before making their late push.
The win snaps Illinois' two-game slide and they did it without Cockburn or sophomore point guard Andre Curbelo, who was out sick. They now sit a half game ahead of Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings.
Plummer was the only other Illini in double figures with 11 points. Freshman Luke Goode set career highs with 28 minutes and nine points and Cockburn's replacement in the starting lineup - Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk - scored eight points.
Marcus Bingham Jr. scored 13 points for the Spartans, who shot just 34 percent from the field.
The Illini are now off until they travel to Northwestern on Saturday (3:30pm, BTN).
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