The losing streak against Wisconsin continues. It now stands at 13 games after Illinois lost their second game of the season to an 11-15 (4-9) Wisconsin Badgers team. Illinois had another heroic performance from Trent Frazier, but again in a losing effort — he may be on his way to becoming college basketball’s Nick Foles.
The Illini fall to 2-10 in conference play. Here are the top takeaways from another frustrating game for Illinois.
1. Trent Frazier is a beautiful basketball angel
With an tremendous second half where he scored 22 points with five three-pointers, Frazier set a new career high in scoring with 32 points. His 32 points is the third most points scored by a freshman in program history trailing Deon Thomas (34) and Kiwane Garris (33).
Frazier is also now only the second Illinois player to have two games with seven or more made three-pointers in a single season alongside Kevin Turner.
Frazier is the only thing going right with the Illinois offense. He has that special “it” factor, and he finds a way to score when Illinois needs it the most.
Some of the plays he made in the second half were just silly.
PSA: @_Trentfrazier1 is a danger to ankles everywhere.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 9, 2018
The @IlliniMBB freshman shimmies and splashes, and we've got a close one on BTN. pic.twitter.com/S0WwAoAMzM
Remember that Trent Frazier guy we just told you about?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 9, 2018
The @IlliniMBB freshman has upped the silly level in Champaign, pulling up from the Illinois logo on the court: pic.twitter.com/dqycBD3Cf9
So, in conclusion.
Trent Frazier is my new religion. https://t.co/heV9nGSQLb— Brandon Birkhead (@bbirk3) February 9, 2018
2. Ethan Happ is the worst possible matchup for Illinois
Wisconsin have been a one man team all season, and it’s the main reason they stand at 11-14 overall. Unfortunately for Illinois, that one man is the worst possible matchup for an undersized team that plays without a true post.
Happ had a box score stuffing stat line of 27 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assist, 3 blocks, and 2 steals.
Early on in the game, Illinois tried to double him in the low block, and while Illinois forced a couple of turnovers doing this, it was largely ineffective because of Happ’s ability to pass the ball.
When Illinois didn’t double Happ, he feasted upon Illinois weak interior defending. Illinois tired to pick their poison by doubling Happ and when that didn’t work, they tried the let him get his strategy and defend everyone else. That also didn’t work.
Illinois simply cannot — and that is not hyperbole — defend teams with elite big men. The only thing that kept Illinois in the game for as long as they were was poor shooting from Happ’s teammates in the first half, and Trent Frazier happening again.
A big man, a big man. My kingdom for a big man.
3. Da’Monte Williams played one single minute
Williams has been seeing less and less playing time as of late, and he barely avoided a DNP when he was put in for a single minute late in the game. He then commited a turnover in that single minute.
Underwood mentioned in his post-game press conference that the choice to not play Williams was due to Wisconsin’s tendency to slack off shooters and crowd the paint on defense, and WIlliams’ poor shooting from deep.
Williams has only made one three-point shot in Big Ten play (1-15, .066). He has only scored 2 points in his last four games.
Williams has shown flashes of being a great perimeter defender, and makes many hustle plays, but Illinois needs more out of Williams. If he can’t find a way to improve his shot, Brad Underwood may have no choice but to keep him on the bench in certain games.