It’s that time of the year again — tomorrow night, Illinois and Missouri will meet in St. Louis for the 41st edition of the annual Braggin’ Rights game.
The series has historically been a streaky one, and the past few years have been no different. Missouri has won the previous three meetings between the two teams, and Illinois hasn’t had Braggin’ Rights over its southwestern neighbor since 2017. For a program with as much success — recently and historically — as Illinois, it’s been a long time since it last defeated its biggest rival.
But Trent Frazier has been at Illinois for a long time. As long ago as it seems, the last Illini Braggin’ Rights victory in 2017 was Frazier’s coming out party.
Frazier had come off the bench for the first month and a half of his career, and he came off the bench against Missouri as well. But after his performance in Braggin’ Rights, Brad Underwood couldn’t keep him on the bench much longer. On the last two possessions of the first half, Trent hit consecutive pull-up threes from the left wing to put the Illini up by 20 at the break.
Just look at those jerseys! Look at the zig zags!
Underwood rewarded him with more playing time in the second half and it paid off. Frazier went on to score a then-career-high 22 points in the game, and he added three steals and his first career block for good measure. When Missouri cut the lead all the way down to four in the final minute, Trent iced the game with four consecutive free throws to seal Illinois’ fifth straight Braggin’ Rights victory.
Of course, Frazier is not the only current Illini that played in this game: a freshman Da’Monte Williams made an appearance too, finishing with two points and a steal in eight minutes.
Four years later, Frazier and Williams are still cornerstones of Illinois basketball, but it’s easy to forget just how different the program looked when they arrived on campus. In the win over Missouri, Frazier was joined by guys like Leron Black, Champaign native Michael Finke, and Illini fan favorite Mark Smith (I kid) as Illinois’ leading scorers. Yes, Mark Smith was on the team the last time Illinois won Braggin’ Rights; it’s been a while.
Throughout all that time, though, Illinois basketball has had two constants: Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams. Frazier and Williams opened their Braggin’ Rights careers with a win; here’s hoping they can finish with one too.