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.
MEN’S BASKETBALL (7-3 Overall, 2-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: Illinois held on for an 87-83 win over Iowa to stay undefeated in the Big Ten on Monday, but then it lost an 83-79 battle to #11 Arizona. Monday’s matchup in Iowa City was a back-and-forth affair; the Illini jumped out to a 20-10 lead, but a 21-2 Iowa run put the Hawkeyes up 31-22. Illinois would outscore them by 13 the rest of the way to secure the victory. Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison led the team with 21 points each, with Kofi Cockburn adding 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. On Saturday, the Illini played a thriller in front of a sold-out State Farm Center but ultimately fell just short. After a slow start, a 19-0 run — including 11 straight from Trent Frazier — put Illinois up 37-24 with seven minutes to go in the first half, but Arizona clawed back to cut the lead to four at halftime. A tight second half saw nine lead changes with neither team ever leading by more than seven, but an Illini turnover down three with 25 seconds left proved to seal the win for the Wildcats. Only four Illini scored in the game, led by 27 from Frazier and 25 from Plummer. Cockburn finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for another double-double in the loss.
This Week: The Illini host St. Francis (PA) on Saturday at noon in their lone game of the week.
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL (22-12 Overall, Sweet Sixteen)
Last Week: In the Sweet Sixteen at Texas, the Illini bowed out of the NCAA Tournament with a loss to #10 Nebraska. First Team All-Big Ten outside hitter Megan Cooney was out with an illness and it showed, as the Illini finished with their second-lowest hitting percentage of the season at .088. Illinois had a run in the second set to take a 12-6 lead, but the Cornhuskers came back to win the set 25-21 and ultimately swept the Illini. This concludes the Illini volleyball season.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (5-5 Overall, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini split their two games this week, losing their Big Ten opener at Michigan State but bouncing back to defeat Butler on Sunday. On Thursday, Illinois got out to a hot start, and it led the Spartans 34-26 at halftime. A 26-17 third quarter gave MSU a 1-point lead heading into the fourth though, and it pulled away in the final period for a misleading 15-point (75-60) win. Yesterday, the Illini controlled the game from start to finish, winning every quarter against Butler at State Farm Center. Freshman Adalia McKenzie led the Illini with a career-high 23 points and sophomore Kendall Bostic added 8 points and 13 rebounds in the 78-66 victory.
This Week: Finals week means the Illini play just one game as they travel to Southern Illinois for a 2 p.m. matchup on Sunday.
WRESTLING (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: The 23rd-ranked Illini went 2-0 on Saturday at a tri meet in Edwardsville. First, Illinois defeated Chattanooga 19-12, winning six of 10 matches including a major decision from Junior Nikita Nepomnyashchiy. In the second dual of the day, the Illini won eight of 10 matches in a 35-6 rout of SIUE.
This Week: Illinois gets a breather before returning to the mats at the Midlands Championships from Dec. 29 to 30.