CHAMPAIGN, Ill.— In a game that was anticipated to be the biggest non-conference home game since Chris Paul and Wake Forest visited Champaign in 2004, Saturday did not disappoint.
Unfortunately for Illinois, this one had a different result.
Trying to win their sixth in a row, the Illini (7-3, 2-0 BIG) fell short against No. 11 Arizona in a high scoring affair. The Wildcats (9-0, 1-0 PAC 12) captured their ninth win of the season, 82-76 on Saturday afternoon at State Farm Center.
“Big boy basketball game,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “They’re good, they’re really good.”
After struggling against full-court pressure last time out at Iowa, Arizona employed that same tactic against the Illini on Saturday. Without slithery Andre Curbelo — out for his fifth consecutive game — the Illini once again looked unprepared for the press and struggled offensively.
“Some people had [Curbelo] as a first team All-American, and you take that away from your team,” Underwood said. “Everything we’ve done (since) has been a little bit out of sync.”
Illinois has fallen victim to allowing double digit runs. While the Illini were able to withstand a 21-2 run against Iowa, stopping No. 11 Arizona from going on a big run was vital for Illinois to stay in the game.
Instead it was an electrifying display from Trent Frazier to give the Illini a 37-24 lead. Aided by a thunderous State Farm Center crowd, the Illini went on a 19-0 run in under three minutes, thanks to 14-points from the fifth year senior.
“I had goosebumps,” Frazier said. “There were a lot of people here tonight, that felt great.”
Arizona was able to answer, partially because of a personal and then technical foul on Da’Monte Williams. In the first half alone, the Illini trailed by as much as seven and led by as much as 13, taking a 42-38 into the break.
Defensively, Illinois had trouble containing sophomore Bennedict Mathurin. The guard had a game-high 30 points, including hitting five times from three-point range. His fifth trey of the game gave Arizona a 57-50 lead in the second half, capping a 12-0 run for the Wildcats.
“You want to see a pro? That’s what they look like,” Underwood said. “[Mathurin] is a bad son of a gun.”
Illinois was able to answer, thanks to a heavy reliance on the three pointer. The Illini’s first six field goals of the second half were all triples. The Illini got a huge boost offensively from their lefty sharpshooters. Trent Frazier and Alfonso Plummer combined for over 50 points, and knocked down 12 threes between the two.
“We shoot a lot of balls everyday in practice,” Frazier said. “That’s our strength.”
Ultimately what this game came down to was Kofi Cockburn. Despite notching his fifth double-double of the year, he was held to his lowest point total of the season and turned the ball over five times. The Illini were never able to get Cockburn going offensively, as he was 5-of-15 from the field.
“Getting outscored 42-to-16 in the paint, when you have Kofi? That’s problematic,” Underwood said. “How often do you see Kofi [Cockburn] going 5-of-15?”
Down three with under a minute to play, Alfonso Plummer and the Illini had the ball with a chance to tie. Instead, Plummer got called for a five-second call. Giving Arizona the ball and forcing the game to come down to free throws.
“We had the play set up,” Underwood said. “That’s on me, [Plummer] didn’t know the rule.”
The Wildcats hit their free throws, and preserved their perfect record.
- Trent Frazier (ILL): 27 PTS, 6-11 3FG, 5 STL
- Alfonso Plummer (ILL): 25 PTS, 6-14 FG
- Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 13 PTS, 12 REB
- Bennedict Mathurin (AZ): 30 PTS, 5-8 3FG, 7 REB
- Kerr Krissa (AZ): 19 PTS, 2-8 3FG, 8 REB
- Azoulas Tubelis (AZ): 16 PTS, 8 REB
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Trent was HOT.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Kofi showing off his shooting stroke. pic.twitter.com/LWQF5H4zy2— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 11, 2021
- Alfonso Plummer’s three point shooting prowess has been on display over the last six games — he has scored 20+ in a career-long six games in a row. Over the course of those games, Plummer has drilled 29 threes. Another aspect of the Utah transfer’s game has been his impeccable free throw shooting. Plummer has made a perfect 31-of-31 to start the season.
With those free throws from Alfonso Plummer, he has now made 31 consecutive from the charity stripe. That is good for 5th all time in #Illini history.— The Schmack Guy (@Ant_Pasquale3) December 11, 2021
39 is the record held by Kiwane Garris in 1995.
- State Farm Center was a little loud.
Decimal app on my iPhone just hit 108.8 after that block by @kxng_alpha . Best of the season.— Kent Brown (@kentbrown) December 11, 2021
- Kofi Cockburn scored in double-digits for the 22nd straight time. The big man also grabbed 12 rebounds, good for his third consecutive and fifth double-double on the season.
- This was Arizona’s first all-time victory in Champaign.
TWEET OF THE GAME
HE SAID IT
“SOFTNESS. Soft. Have you ever known my teams to be that?” said head coach Brad Underwood about what will upset him most about today’s game.
Illinois gets a week off before playing host to St. Francis (PA) next Saturday at noon in Champaign. That game can be caught on Big Ten Network.