Frazier’s 1st Half: A-
Frazier kept the Illini in this one during the first half, as he’s done all season. Frazier had nine points and four assists in the first half. All of these points came from behind the arc when the Illini needed a big shot to keep it close. The freshman point guard showed great command and really controlled the pace of the game for the Illini. Although, Frazier struggled to stay hot in the second half and finished the game with 14 points, five assists and three turnovers.
Leron Black: B+
Same song, different verse for Leron Black. He had another incredibly efficient night on the offensive end. Black had 20 points on 12 shots in only 22 minutes. Once again, the problem for Black was foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in the first ten minutes of the game, and his third came right at the start of the second half. Black’s foul trouble kept him off the floor for some crucial stretches when the Illini needed his scoring ability.
The Supporting Cast: C-
Mark Alstork was the only other player not listed on this report card who made an impact. Alstork made the first basket of the game (a transition three), three free throws after being fouled on a jumper and a transition layup after a nice defensive play. Alstork hounded Tum Tum Nairn in the first half and his on-ball defense was a big part of Illinois’ success in the first half. However, Illinois did not get much from their bench. Smith, Lucas, Williams, and Ebo didn’t make much of an impact during the game at all. It’s, of course, a tall task to ask a group of underclassmen to go into a hostile environment and make impact plays against the No. 2 team in the country. Hopefully, experiences like last night will prepare them for a successful run in 2018-19.
Kipper Nichols: D+
Kipper had some great activity in the first half, collecting five rebounds despite shooting only 1-5 from the field. In the second half, he started playing defense with his hands and found himself in foul trouble. He also received an earful from Underwood during an early second-half timeout. He followed that up with a missed dunk and a poor shooting night (2-8 from the field). He did lead the team in rebounds, which is something that the undersized Illini desperately need from him.
Forcing Turnovers: D-
The Illini only turned the ball over five times, which ties a season-low they set against Marshall. However, they only forced 8 turnovers, which was also a season low. The Spartans turned it over 25 times when these two teams played in Champaign earlier this season. Last night, Izzo’s team only turned it over once in the second half. Michigan State got at least one shot attempt on nearly every possession. That’s not how Illinois’ defense is designed to succeed. MSU got the Illini into defensive rotations and had plenty of looks from three and shot 40 percent from deep (11-27). Illinois is not going to be able to hang with a team of Michigan State’s caliber if they make 10+ threes.