Sturdy's Takeaways - Road Warriors Edition

Brad Sturdy, IlliniGuy

February 27, 2022

Kofi Cockburn courtesy Illinois Athletics

The Illini continued their stellar road play with a 93-85 win in Ann Arbor in a game they never trailed and led by as many as 15 points to stay alive in the Big Ten title chase. Alfonso Plummer shot Illinois out to an 8-point halftime lead with 23 first half points, and Kofi Cockburn scored 19 in the second half as the Illini moved to 20-8 and 13-5 in the Big Ten. 

 It wasn't easy though, as the Wolverines made it difficult on the Illini down the stretch scoring on seven straight possessions at one point. But after the Wolverines had cut it to two a pair of Kofi Cockburn free throws in a Trent Frazier dagger 3 pointer in the final minute clinched it for the Illini. Illinois can now take three days off before they host Penn State on Thursday and Iowa on Senior Sunday in the last game of the regular season.

And all Illinois fans are rooting for Purdue Tuesday night as they attempt to win a Big Ten title for the first time in 17 years, 

Here’s a breakdown.

These 4 Things

  1. Kofi Dominates Hunter - In a matchup of two of the dominant big men in college basketball, it was Kofi Cockburn that led the way and dominated the action. Cockburn had 27 and held Dickinson to 13 points on 4-13 shooting. As the game wore on, Cockburn imposed his will on the inside against Dickinson and provided enough of a defensive presence to slow the star Michigan Center down. Dickinson is a very good player, who had his way with Purdue in two meetings, but Cockburn showed he was the better big man on this day. 
  2. Plummer Giveth and Plummer Giveth Up - Alfonso Plummer scored 23 points in the first half and 26 for the game, but once again he struggles to defend on the other end. Plummer played just 9 minutes in the second half and took just 1 shot. His presence creates openings on the offensive end, but he is consistently the target in the second half for every opponent. Is it an attempt to wear him down? Is it an attempt to attack him as the weakest defender? Perhaps a bit of both. That’s why the return and emergence of Curbelo is so important. Plummer was a -2 on the plus/minus chart. 
  3. Raise the Roof, or the Ceiling - Coleman Hawkins and Andre Curbelo raise the ceiling for this Illini squad. Hawkins has the ability to play a stretch 5 and provides the length and skill to be a true PF for this Illini squad. Curbelo is the playmaker they haven’t had this season and played with patience and was under control for the most part. When those two players are clicking it adds another dimension on both ends and gives teh Illini an opportunity to matchup against anyone. After a mid-season lull for Hawkins and long stretch of injuries for Curbelo, they appear to be rounding into shape and beginning to click. 
  4. Daggers - Trent Frazier is now the closer for the Illini with his second dagger in the state of Michigan. Although the Illini no longer have Ayo Dosunmu, perhaps they have found their replacement. The final 3 was once again not a great play, but more of as Brad Underwood said, ‘A dude making a play’. Having multiple guys that can make a play down the stretch, and aren't afraid of making the winning play, makes them dangerous. But having a ‘guy’ is important as well. 

Notables

  • Omar Payne was brutal today, a -7 on the plus minus chart and he continues to commit silly fouls. 
  • Elsewhere on the chart, Curbelo was a +17, Hawkins a _10, Cockburn a +11, and Goode a +9
  • Illinois has now won five straight games against Michigan.
  • Illinois has now won at Michigan three years in a row, its longest winning streak in Ann Arbor since claiming four straight from 2001-05.
  • Coach Brad Underwood won his 200th career game. He is now 200-91 (.687) in his nine years as a Div. I head coach.
  • Illinois won for the 20th time this season. The Illini have three straight 20-win seasons for the first time since 2009-11. It is the 35th 20-win season in school history. 
  • Illinois won its 13th Big Ten game, marking the program’s first-ever run of 13+ B1G wins in three straight seasons (2020-13, 2021-16, 2022-13).
  • Illinois’ 42 wins in Big Ten play over the last three years is the winningest 3-year stretch in school history. 
  • Illinois has now won 10 of its last 13 Big Ten road games, and 15 of its last 19. 
  • Illinois has totaled 20 road wins in Big Ten play over the last three years, three more than the next closest team (Wisconsin, 17). Illinois is 20-10 during this stretch (.667), one of only three teams above .500 in B1G road games. 
  • Illinois is the Big Ten’s winningest team over the last three seasons with a 42-16 record in league play, and a 45-16 mark when including the conference tournament. 
  • Illinois is 27-6 in its last 33 games versus Big Ten opponents.
  • National Player of the Year candidate Kofi Cockburn scored a game-high 27 points on 11-15 FG with 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
  • It was Cockburn’s 13th 20-point game of the season.
  • Senior Alfonso Plummer scored 26 points, including 23 in the first half. It was his second straight 26-point outing.
  • Plummer made 6 three-pointers on the afternoon, one game after tying the school-record with 8 threes vs. Ohio State.
  • Plummer’s combined 14 threes is the second-highest total in back-to-back games in school history.
  • Senior Trent Frazier scored 17 points and hit another late dagger to close out a win, draining a long three with the shot clock expiring to put the Illini up by 7 with 45 seconds left.
  • Frazier became the Illinois career leader in minutes played today, breaking the school record previously held by Dee Brown (2003-06).
  • Frazier has now played 4,705 career minutes. Brown held the record at 4,698 minutes.
  • Frazier now has 1,761 career points, moving into fifth place on the Illinois all-time scoring list.
  • Sophomore Andre Curbelo had 12 points on 5-7 FG, his fifth time scoring in double figures this season.

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