A facial injury kept Ayo Dosunmu from playing his last possible game in Champaign, but on the court the Illini still found a way to get things done.
In a day flooded with news of Dosunmu’s broken nose that kept him out of at least Thursday’s game, it was the freshmen guards who led Illinois past Nebraska, 86-70, at State Farm Center.
Without Dosunmu, one would assume it was Kofi Cockburn who carried most of the workload. Instead, it was the Illini’s duo of dynamic rookie guards, Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo.
“We had our guy down,” said senior guard Trent Frazier. “But we have multiple guys that can have a night.”
The pair got it going early, accounting for 22 of the Illini’s 36 first-half points. Miller led the way with 16 before the break, including a pair of flashy slams. Curbelo had six points, five rebounds and three assists in the first period.
“Belo (Andre Curbelo) and Ace (Adam Miller), those two are [some] of the hardest workers on the team,” Frazier said.
Miller finished the contest with 18 points, while Curbelo sniffed a triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“I was just playing for them out there,” Curbelo said. “I wasn't aware of anything out there, my near triple double. I was just trying to get the dub for my seniors, for Ayo.”
In the second, Cockburn began to assert his dominance. The sophomore scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
“He has those spurts every game,” Frazier said of Cockburn's strong second period. “We try to get him going in the second half, and that’s what we did.”
It wasn't the cleanest game, as the Illini (17-6, 13-4 Big Ten) turned it over 15 times. But Illinois was able to hold Nebraska’s (5-17, 0-15 Big Ten) leading scorer Teddy Allen to just five points on 2-of-6 shooting, giving the Illini a fighting chance on Senior Night without their Player of the Year candidate.
Thursday was also Trent Frazier’s “last one at The Farm”, as well as Da’Monte Williams and Zach Griffith. The trio was honored before the game and placed in the starting lineup — a place Williams hadn't been this month, and a first for Griffith.
“My only disappointment is that 15,500 were not here to celebrate,” said head coach Brad Underwood post game.
Among those honored was also Dosunmu, as the writing is on the wall for his basketball career to take the next step to the NBA at the conclusion of this season, meaning this was also his last opportunity to play in Champaign.
Thank you, Seniors. #Illini | #EveryDayGuys pic.twitter.com/xLk6co21hG— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) February 26, 2021
- Trent Frazier is fourth all-time in Illini history in made three-pointers with 240.
- In just 84 career games, Ayo Dosunmu is already in the top-20 of points in program history.
- Zach Giffith is a three-time All-Academic Big Ten.
- Da’Monte Williams leads the Illini and Big Ten in 3-point shooting, sinking threes at a 57% clip.
- Kofi Cockburn notched his eighth 20-point game of the season.
- Andre Curbelo secured his first career double-double.
- Trey McGowens led Nebraska with 18 points.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
One last time...
"From ..."— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) February 25, 2021
Congratulations on changing @IlliniMBB forever, @AyoDos_11. pic.twitter.com/UMyRjFOG6o
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The freshman GOT UP.
Adam Miller is ready for his moment. ✈️ @IlliniMBB pic.twitter.com/ah7lAyJKGs— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) February 26, 2021
And here’s our first look at Masked Ayo:
#JL4L pic.twitter.com/c94CjvDZcL— Mr WhyNotMe (@AyoDos_11) February 25, 2021
TWEET OF THE GAME
Ayo Dosunmu kisses the ‘I’ on his last night in State Farm Center as a player pic.twitter.com/Cb4qZuLhyI— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) February 25, 2021
HE SAID IT
“There’s obviously more issues that happened from the incident and we’ll leave all that to the doctors. We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that young man’s career, he’s the National Player of the Year.” — Brad Underwood on Ayo Dosunmu’s injury.
The gauntlet continues for the Illini as they travel to Madison to take on No. 23 Wisconsin at 1 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.