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This Week in Illini Athletics: Nov. 22-28, 2021

Kofi’s back.

Loyola Chicago v Illinois Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Welcome to “This Week in Illini Athletics,” a weekly review of the past week of Illini sports and a preview of the week to come.

FOOTBALL (4-7 Overall, 3-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: Despite losing to #17 Iowa 33-23 on Saturday, Illinois was once again competitive against a ranked team in the Big Ten. The Illini jumped out to a 10-0 lead early with a touchdown and a field goal on their first two drives, but Iowa immediately came storming back with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that may have been the difference in the game. The Hawkeyes took the lead later in the second quarter, but they couldn’t quite put Illinois away until kicking a field goal to go up 26-16 with under 2 minutes remaining. Two garbage-time touchdowns brought the score to 33-23 where it would finish. Senior defensive end Isaiah Gay totaled 10 tackles in the game, including 5.5 tackles for loss, and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

This Week: In their final game of the regular season, the Illini celebrate Senior Day on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Northwestern in the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.

MEN’S BASKETBALL (2-1 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: #10 Illinois played just one game this week, losing a 67-66 battle at Marquette in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Illini led for much of the second half, but a late Marquette 10-1 run gave the Golden Eagles the victory. Trent Frazier picked up much of the scoring slack for the Illini in the absence of Kofi Cockburn, scoring 23 points including six threes.

This Week: Kofi Cockburn finally returns as the Illini start the week in Kansas City at the Hall of Fame Classic. First, Illinois faces Cincinnati today at 5:30 p.m. Then on Tuesday, the Illini will match up with either #16 Arkansas or Kansas State at either 8:30 (with a win on Monday) or 6:00 p.m. (with a loss). Illinois finishes up its week against UT Rio Grande Valley at 7 p.m. on Friday at State Farm Center.

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL (19-10 Overall, 11-7 Big Ten)

Last Week: The 24th-ranked Illini notched a pair of sweeps in the penultimate week of the regular season. Both victories came in dominating fashion, as Illinois outscored its opponents by an average of 8 points per set this week. It was a team effort in Friday’s win at Indiana, as five different Illini tallied at least six kills in the three-set match. Setter Diana Brown once again did a good job spreading the ball around on Senior Day against Maryland, finishing with 39 assists and no errors.

This Week: The Illini take a road trip to the lower peninsula in the final week before the NCAA Tournament, playing Michigan on Wednesday evening at 6 and Michigan State at the same time on Friday. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be shown on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (3-1 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: Illinois split its two games at State Farm Center this week, losing 71-62 to SIUE on Thursday before rebounding for an 86-82 victory over UC Riverside on Sunday. Sophomore Aaliyah Nye’s 17 points led the Illini in Thursday’s loss, but Illinois’ scoring attack was much more balanced on Sunday with five Illini finishing in double figures.

This Week: The Daytona Beach Invitational welcomes Illinois for two games this weekend. The Illini play Dayton at 1:15 p.m. on Friday and Middle Tennessee on Saturday morning at 11.

MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY

Last Week: As Illinois’ lone runner at the NCAA Championships, senior Jon Davis was unable to finish the race. This concludes the Illini cross country season.

WRESTLING (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: Six Illini placed at the Lindenwood Open on Saturday, including two in the open (to all classes) division. Freshmen Danny Pucino and Joe Roberts both placed fourth in their respective weight classes (141 and 157, respectively), and freshman Mike Bosco won the freshman/sophomore division in the 285 weight class.

This Week: Illinois gets a multi-week break before returning to the mats at SIUE on December 11.

WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING (4-2 Overall, 0-1 Big Ten)

Last Week: In the third and final day of the meet on Saturday, the Illini pulled out a win at the nine-team House of Champions Invitational in Indianapolis. The highlight came on Friday, as Senior Abby Cabush broke her own school record in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:47.71. Illinois’ 200 freestyle relay (Laurel Bludgen, Molly Yetter, Cabush, Isabelle Guerra) and 400 freestyle relay (Lily Olson, Yetter, Bludgen, Cabush) teams both took first as well.

This Week: The Illini are off for over a month. They will return to the pool at the FIU Sprint Invitational on January 4.