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Illini fend off Hawkeyes, extend win streak to five games

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The Illini-Hawkeye rivalry never fails to deliver.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes went into Monday night’s matchup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, averaging 91 points per game.

Illinois’ defense held the Hawkeyes and Keegan Murray, one of the nation’s leading scorers, in check just long enough to escape with a 87-83 win.

As has been the trend lately, Alfonso Plummer got the Illini going early. The Utah graduate transfer has averaged 24 points over his last three games and looked poised to do the same with 11 points at the half.

He attempted just three shots in the second half, but the third might’ve been his biggest. With just over a minute to play, his corner three pushed Illinois’ lead to two possessions before it turned into a free throw contest the rest of the way.

His first-half spark, along with 11 first-half points from Jacob Grandison, allowed the Illini to sustain a 21-2 run that gave the Hawkeyes a 9-point lead midway through the first frame.

And in a high-octane matchup between two of the country’s best offenses, Kofi Cockburn and Keegan Murray were essentially non-factors in the first half, combining for just 5 points as the Illini took a 39-36 edge into the intermission.

Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood must’ve made Cockburn touches a priority in his halftime speech because the offense fed the All-American immediately out of the break. The Jamaican native poured in 14 second-half points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds on the night as the Illini stretched the lead to as many as 15 with less than nine minutes to play.

Murray started to find his groove as the second stanza went on, tallying 19 for the night, most of which came in garbage time.

Iowa’s adjustment to a fullcourt press plagued Illinois in the second period, though, resulting in multiple 10-second violations. The Hawkeyes cut the lead to three with under 10 seconds to play, but no closer. Back-to-back free throws from Plummer and one from Grandison sealed the deal as the Illini escaped with their first win at Carver-Hawkeye since 2017 and their first under Brad Underwood.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Trent Frazier (ILL): 18 PTS, 3-5 3FG, 8 REB
  • Jacob Grandison (ILL): 21 PTS, 4-9 3FG
  • Alfonso Plummer (ILL): 21 PTS, 4-8 3FG, 5-5 FT
  • Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 17 PTS, 18 REB
  • Tony Perkins (IOWA): 16 PTS, 6-8 FG
  • Keegan Murray (IOWA): 19 PTS, 7-15 FG

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Mama, there goes that man.

Nothing to see here.

TWEET OF THE GAME

Has anyone seen Joe Wieskamp and Payton Sandfort in the same room before?

WHO’S NEXT

The Illini welcome the undefeated eleventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats to town on Saturday. Arizona dominated Michigan back in November at the Roman Main Event.

Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT on FOX.