Too bad Illinois couldn't pull out a win, because Kipper Nichols played like a stud.
That was the prevailing sentiment after Illinois' 87-74 loss to No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 22. It was the kind of performance that shows you what kind of player Kipper could truly be with consistent effort.
He did everything in this game, knocking down a career-high five three-pointers, showing off his athleticism with a highlight dunk and scoring 13 points late in the second half to keep the game close. It was a jack-of-all-trades kind of performance for, in one writer’s opinion, the most athletically gifted player on the team.
This is the kind of effort the team needs to see more often from one of its best, most experienced players in the 2018-19 season. His motor was running high and he poured it on, along with Trent Frazier, who had another solid performance in what was a banner freshman year.
This is my thing about Kipper Nichols, and I don't mean to harp on the kid because he was one of our more solid contributors this season. However, he will only be as good as he wants to be, as he sometimes disappears in games when Brad Underwood desperately needs him. His motor tends to run hot and cold, and it's understandably maddening for Illini fans.
Thankfully, though, he took a big leap in overall effort this year, and this performance against this Michigan State team was one of a string of solid efforts from Nichols. If he keeps hitting shots and showing off his highlight reel ability every game, the sky is the limit with this kid.