The Illini were 10-11 (0-8) going into the Jan. 24, 2018, matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers, who were also rebuilding in Archie Miller’s first season in Bloomington. Brad Underwood’s beleaguered Illini had lost heartbreakers against Northwestern, Maryland, Iowa and Nebraska in the weeks prior, and they were clearly hungry to snap their eight-game conference losing streak.
The game ended up being indicative of a trend for the Illini that would persist throughout the season: the team’s offensive productivity was tied to the performances of Trent Frazier and Leron Black. Both players had outstanding games in this matchup and were instrumental in propelling the Illini to victory.
Frazier demonstrated his ability to beat opponents in several different ways. He can navigate through traffic and drive to the hoop:
But he can also pull up and sink shots from the perimeter when opponents shift into a zone or focus on protecting the paint:
This type of versatility has been missing from other recent Illini point guards. For Frazier to showcase this ability against Big Ten competition as a freshman is a very encouraging sign. I don’t need to remind you, but Trent Frazier is going to be special for the next few years in Champaign.
Leron Black gave the Hoosiers fits all night too. Like Illinois, Indiana also lacks a long and tall rim protector in the Nnanna Egwu mold, which allowed Black to showcase his athleticism against comparably sized opposition.
Frazier and Black both led the Illini with 19 points on the evening. Following them, Kipper Nichols scored 12 while Te’Jon Lucas posted 11. Nichols performed well offensively and scored in a number of different ways. Both Kipper and Te’Jon were also perfect from the free throw line, in what was otherwise a fairly rough game for the Illini from the charity stripe.
The Illini certainly didn’t dominate this game from start to finish, but they accomplished what they needed to do to secure a win. This might end up being the way the Illini need to manufacture wins until Brad Underwood has his schemes and players fully integrated into this program.