The Crowd: A+
The Braggin’ Rights game might be one of the most fun games of the year for Fighting Illini fans. This year, there was a sense of rejuvenation in the rivalry after each of the past few years saw two teams lower-tier conference teams battling it out in St. Louis.
With the hiring of Martin and Underwood, the Tilmon saga, and plenty of trash talk, I think it’s safe to say this rivalry will continue to be strong. Plenty of Illini faithful showed up at the Scottrade Center and painted a nice shade of orange at Ballpark Village before the game. They definitely had an impact on the game.
Leron Black: A
Leron had a very solid shooting game (8-of-18 from the field), but most importantly, he made big shots down the stretch to keep the victory secure. He finished with 20 points and seven boards, and I believe was the most impressive player in the game for Illinois.
Added bonus for the proposal, too.
Trent Frazier: B+
Frazier had a lot of cool moments in the game, and he finished with a career-high 22 points. The freshman did, however, make a few bad decisions here and there. On at least two occasions he drove into heavy traffic and tried to finish instead of dishing the ball out, which is partly why he was only 5-of-17 from the floor.
Still, his energy and free throw shooting played a big role in the Illini win.
Te’Jon Lucas: C-
I’m getting a bad feeling that Te’Jon is regressing from how he performed last year. I’m not sure if it’s the integration into Underwood’s system, or Lucas simply being outshined by Trent Frazier.
Either way, Lucas had 0 points against the Tigers. He did have a pair of assists, but hasn’t shown much consistency this year.
Mark Alstork: D
I hate giving letter grades worse than a C, especially after a victory, but Alstork just cannot seem to find an offensive rhythm.
While he has continued to work on his defense and remains one of the best passers on the team, Underwood needs him to be able to score and produce on offense. Two points in 24 minutes on 1-of-6 shooting isn’t going to cut it.
First Half Play: A
They finally figured out how not to go down by double digits in the first half of a game. Much of this I believe was due to a suffocating and disciplined defense and plenty of hustle plays. It didn’t hurt that Trent Frazier stepped into that three-pointer as time expired before halftime to cap it off.
Avoiding slow starts could help this team turn the corner.
I was shocked that Illinois essentially controlled this game from start to finish. After an opening-possession bucket from Tilmon to start off the game — which at the time made me very uneasy — the Illini actually managed to hold their ground with a solid lead against the Tigers.
The defense sparked the effort, perhaps best shown by Missouri’s 21 turnovers. I thought the entire team did an excellent job communicating on ball screens, rotating and putting pressure on the ball without fouling.
The Return of MIZ NOZ: A++
We really owe a great deal of thanks to these young fans.