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This Week in Illini Athletics: Nov. 29-Dec. 5, 2021

Illinois football won the Hat. Now, it’s tourney time for Illini volleyball.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Last Week: In their final game of the season, the Illini dominated Northwestern from start to finish in a 47-14 victory, winning the Land of Lincoln Trophy for the first time in seven years. After building a 14-point lead in the first quarter with an 8-yard Daniel Barker touchdown run and 29-yard Isaiah Williams touchdown catch, Illinois quickly tacked on even more points in the second quarter. In a span of under two minutes, Chase Brown punched the ball in at the 1-yard line, Jartavis Martin intercepted the Wildcats, and Williams ran for another touchdown. With a 28-0 lead, the Illini practically had the victory wrapped up just four minutes into the second quarter. The Illini had several standout performances in the blowout: Brandon Peters had a career day on Senior Day with 242 passing yards on 23 attempts, Chase Brown ran for 114 yards and a touchdown in 14 carries to bring him over 1,000 yards rushing on the season, and Isaiah Williams finished with 134 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns. This concludes the Illini football season.

MEN’S BASKETBALL (4-2 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: It was a weird week for 14th-ranked Illinois basketball, as Kofi Cockburn returned from suspension but other injuries prevented the team from playing at full strength. The Illini ended up going 2-1 on the week, splitting their games at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City and defeating UT-Rio Grande Valley on Friday night. Their first game is one they would probably rather forget, as Cincinnati defeated Illinois 51-71 on Monday in Cockburn’s first game. Then on Tuesday, the Illini played Kansas State in a matchup against former coach Bruce Weber. The Illini emerged victorious behind 23 points from Cockburn and 21 from Alfonso Plummer. In the final game on Friday, Illinois beat UTRGV 94-85 despite missing Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo, and Jacob Grandison. Cockburn and Plummer led the Illini again, finishing with 38 and 30 points, respectively.

This Week: Tonight at 8, #14 Illinois hosts Notre Dame in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Big Ten play then kicks off on Friday when the Illini host Rutgers at 6 p.m.

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL (20-11 Overall, 12-8 Big Ten)

Last Week: #23 Illinois split the two matches on its Michigan road trip, losing 3-1 to Michigan on Wednesday but closing the regular season with a sweep of MSU. The Illini played Michigan close, with three of the four sets being decided by two points, but the Wolverines ultimately came away with the victory. On Friday, the Illini crushed Michigan State, outscoring the Spartans by 29 points in three sets. Megan Cooney finished with 9 kills on a hyper-efficient .533 hitting percentage in her final regular season match.

This Week: The Illini travel to Kentucky this weekend for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They open tourney play against West Virginia on Friday at 4 p.m. in their first round match. Should the Illini win, they will play the winner of #7 Kentucky vs. Southeast Missouri State at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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

Last Week: The Illini dropped both of their games at the Daytona Beach Invitational over the weekend, bringing their record on the season to 3-3. Against Dayton on Friday, Illinois trailed by just two at halftime, but a strong second half from the Flyers gave them the 67-53 win. The Illini lost a low scoring affair 62-52 against Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

This Week: Illinois is back home for two games this week. On Thursday, the Illini host Florida State at 7 p.m. for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Illinois finishes the week with a matchup against Eastern Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at 2.