Illinois Downs State of Michigan; Belmont defeats SIUE


Published on February 21, 2022 06:11

Last updated on February 21, 2022 06:14

With less than 30 seconds left in Illinois and Michigan State’s second game of the season, the Spartans were within two points of the Illini, after Illinois led the entire game. Tyson Walker’s 26 points nearly spoiled Illinois’ first win at East Lansing since 2015.

But after being quiet for most of the day, Trent Frazier’s experience emerged as the elder buried a deep three, frosting the game with 23 seconds left. With one last defensive possession to go, the Illini locked in and forced a miss near the end of the shot clock, securing the 79-74 victory. Saturday’s win puts Illinois back at the top of the conference as it is tied for first with Purdue at 12-4.

While Frazier had 12 points in the second half, Kofi Cockburn and Jacob Grandison led Illinois’ offensive attack against the Spartans. Grandison had six three-pointers — totaling a season-high 24 points — while delivering five assists and grabbing five boards. But it was Cockburn who led all scorers with 27 points on 67% shooting.

Cockburn approached another double-double with nine rebounds, five of which were offensive boards. Illini’s big man helped fend off the Spartans’ comeback efforts as 19 of his points came in the second half.

The Spartans shot better on the field than the Illini, but the presence of Illinois paint made the difference. The Illini scored 32 points down and their 14 offensive rebounds led to 19 points.

Jacob Grandison dominated the first half, accounting for nearly half of Illinois’ points. As Alfonso Plummer started the game with a jumper, Grandison hit a three-pointer shortly after. Gabe Brown made a jumper, then Da’Monte Williams stole the ball and scored the quick break layup.

A three-minute drought for Illini ensued as AJ Hoggard split the free throws and Brown hit a three. Omar Payne shared a pair of free throws, then Coleman Hawkins drained a back jumper to put Illinois back on track. Then, after a lay-up from Hoggard, Illini’s defense locked down and held the Spartans scoreless for almost six minutes.
Cockburn took over during that streak, making a layup, a pair of free throws and a dunk. Grandison hit his second plateau of the match as Illini went up 19-8. Hoggard and Tyson Walker each made jumps as Illinois went scoreless for four minutes. Cockburn ended the drought with a lay-up then stole the ball at the other end, leading to another deep ball from Grandison.

Hoggard and Plummer traded free throws, then Michigan State hit a three-pointer and a quick layup to get under eight points. Grandison nailed three more from the corner before Julius Marble Mae a jumper. In the closing minutes of the half, Plummer scored a layup, then Grandison hit his fifth three of the half, accounting for all of Illinois’ three-pointers so far. Marble got the last mark of the half, but the Illini went to break 34-22.

Grandison and Cockburn started the second half with layups as Max Christie hit a jumper. Plummer hit a back jump to give Illinois their biggest lead of the day — 16 points — but the Spartans responded with a 7-0 run. Hoggard hit a few shots before Marcus Bingham made it a three. While Grandison made a pair of free throws, the Illini went four scoreless minutes on the field as the Spartans got under nine points.

Cockburn came in big with an and-1 on a layup, then a tip on a Hawkins miss. Walker came back with six straight points before Grandison grabbed an offensive rebound and made a layup. Cockburn hit a short jumper, the Grandison buried three more from the corner.

Michigan State responded to Grandison’s sixth hat-trick with a three of its own, but Cockburn made a three-point play to go up 57-44. Frazier scored his first points of the game with a pair of free throws, then Christie hit a jumper for the Spartans. Payne got an offensive board and found Hawkins who dealt it to Frazier for a three.

The Spartans kept working as Hoggard made an and-1 layup and then Joey Hauser scored on three to make it a 10-point game. The teams traded shots before Michigan State’s comeback effort resulted in a 10-0 run, fueled by Marble and Walker. Cockburn ended a two-minute drought with a layup, but Walker came back with a three to make it a two-run game.

Cockburn continued to trade baskets with Hoggard and Walker in the closing minutes before Curbelo split a pair of free throws to move up 74-71. A steal from Curbelo at the other end led to a layup from Frazier. Walker kept the Spartans in as he lay-up and-1 and the Illini only led by two with less than a minute to go.

But Frazier’s three-point clutch sealed the win for Illinois. The Illini return home Thursday for an 8 p.m. game against No. 18 Ohio State.

POST-MATCH NOTES

• With the win, Illinois improves to 12-4 in Big Ten play, moving to a tie for first place with Purdue.

• Illinois has now won at least 12 Big Ten games in three consecutive years for only the third time in school history, joining the 1951-53 and 1987-89 periods.

• Illinois swept the home-and-away series against Michigan State, the Illini’s first wins over the Spartans at Champaign and East Lansing in the same season since 2005-06.

• Illinois beat Michigan State in East Lansing for the first time since 2015.

• Victory over No. 19 Michigan State made the Illini 3-3 against ranked opponents this season.

• Illinois finished a five-game streak that included four road games with a 3-2 record, including a 2-2 record in road games.

• Illinois has now won 10 of its last 14 games against the top 25 teams.

• Illinois has now won nine of its last 12 Big Ten road games and 14 of its last 18.

• Illinois has 19 road wins in the Big Ten over the past three years, four more than the closest team (Wisconsin, 15). Illinois is 19-10 this streak (.655), one of only three teams above .500 in B1G road games.

• Illinois is the Big Ten’s winningest team over the past three seasons, going 44-15 (.746) against league opponents.

• Illinois is 26-5 (.839) in its last 31 games against Big Ten opponents.

• Leading for Illinois, National Player of the Year nominee Kofi Cockburn had 27 points (10-15 FG & 7-9 FT) and nine rebounds.

• Cockburn is the first player to shoot 27+/9+ at Breslin Center since 2010, when Eastern Michigan’s Brandon Bowdry had 32 points and 15 rebounds.

• Cockburn is the only player in the country to average at least 21 points and 10 rebounds this season.

• Jacob Grandison set his career high as an Illini with 24 points (previous high 21 points in Iowa on 12/6/21).

• Grandison set a career high with six 3-point shots.

• Grandison’s six treys were one of the most all-time by an Illini against Michigan State. Dee Brown hit seven against the Spartans on 01/05/2006 in Champaign.

• Grandison also equaled the record of three by a Big Ten opponent at the Breslin Center.

• Trent Frazier’s 3-point dagger 23 seconds from time to give the Illini a five-point lead gave them 12 points in the second half.

Belmont 73, SIUE 62

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – SIUE men’s basketball fought hard on one of the Ohio Valley Conference’s toughest home courts on Saturday before losing 73-62 to Belmont.

“This team continues to fight through a lot,” said SIUE head coach Brian Barone. “Through fatigue, travel, mental and physical exertion, they have never backed down from a challenge or met it in any way and under circumstances that are arguably as difficult as any team in the country.”

After SIUE struck first, Belmont missed the next seven points to move up 7-2 and extended their lead into double digits to 18-8. The Bruins had their biggest lead of the game at 29-15 after a layup with 8:02 remaining before halftime.

The Cougars cut their lead to six with less than a minute left in the half. Belmont used a steal and a lay-up to cut the lead to eight, but Courtney Carter buried a half-court at the buzzer to bring SIUE within five at 37-32 at the break.

“Courtney’s shot before halftime was a big hit, obviously,” Barone said.

Shamar Wright started the second half with a three-point play to bring SIUE within two at 37-35. Belmont pulled away and the Cougars responded again. A DeeJuan Pruitt dunk after a Desmond Polk steal made it 45-43.

Belmont pushed their lead into double digits (57-46) after a three-point play from Ben Shepard at 9:38 when SIUE made their biggest push. The Cougars clinched a 13-3 run, capped off by a Polk three-pointer to make it 60-59 with 5:40 remaining and that’s as close as the Cougars would come.

In the end, untimely turnovers and foul issues cost SIUE the chance to be upset.

The Cougars tied a season high with 24 turnovers. Belmont came away with 20 interceptions and turned SIUE’s giveaways to 28 points.

“As a team we are young,” Barone said. “We weren’t perfect, but these guys show up in every game.”

SIUE hit 39% of his total shots and knocked down the season-best 11 three-pointers on 23 attempts (48%).

“We were willing passers and our spacing was good tonight,” Barone said. “When we reached the gap and kicked it, we had shots in between. There weren’t many shots in motion.”
Shaun Doss, Jr. led four Cougars in double figures with 16 points. Pruitt scored 13 points. Shamar Wright added 11 points and Polk scored a season-high 10 points. All four players had two three-point shots.

The Bruins entered the game as the OVC’s best shooting team, but the SIUE zone proved problematic. Belmont shot the ball just 44% and drained just six of 26 three-point attempts (23%).

“Zones are all about communication,” Barone said. “The way you do it is through repetition. They embraced communicating with each other on the bus, backstage and in the opportunities where we capitalize on being together.”

Sheppard led Belmont with 20 points. Nick Muszynski and Will Richard each scored 18 points.

SIUE enters the final week of the regular season tied for ninth in the OVC standings, but with three games left and still a chance to earn a spot in the OVC tournament.

“It’s so fun to have the opportunity to play for something,” Barone said. “We put ourselves in position through injuries and the calendar to have the last week at home to play for something.”

The Cougars are one game behind UT Martin for the final tournament berth. SIUE is tied with Eastern Illinois and will host the Panthers on Monday night at First Community Arena. Tipping is at 7 p.m.