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 (13-5 Overall, 6-2 Big Ten)
Last Week: The 17th-ranked Illini had a rough week, losing a thriller to #4 Purdue in double overtime on Monday and dropping a tough road matchup to Maryland on Friday without star center Kofi Cockburn. Despite trailing Purdue by 11 at halftime, Illinois battled all the way back to tie it midway through the second half. However, the Illini would once again find themselves trailing, down by four with under a minute remaining in regulation. Then, four straight points from Andre Curbelo — playing in his first game since November — would tie it again, sending the sellout State Farm Center crowd into pandemonium and the game to overtime. In the first overtime, the Illini came back yet again, tying the game at 78 on an Alfonso Plummer layup with 9 seconds remaining. Purdue finally put the Illini away in the second overtime though, as it pulled away for a 96-88 victory in what could prove to be the game of the year in college basketball. Andre Curbelo starred in his return to action with 20 points off the bench, and, although it may not show up in the box score, backup center Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk played the best game of his career after he was forced into action due to Cockburn’s foul trouble, defending Purdue’s big men admirably. On Friday at Maryland, the Illini were without the services of the concussed Kofi Cockburn and it showed. Illinois was unable to replace Cockburn’s post presence and rebounding, and, despite keeping the game close for 35 minutes, Maryland pulled away for an 81-65 win. Plummer led the Illini with 18 points and five threes in the loss.
This Week: In a matchup of the top two teams in the Big Ten standings, Illinois hosts #14 Michigan State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The Illini then travel to Northwestern for a 3:30 p.m. matchup on Saturday.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (6-11 Overall, 1-5 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini went 0-2 this week with losses at home to Purdue and at #25 Iowa. Against Purdue on Thursday, Illinois kept it close for a quarter, trailing by just two after the first period. Things got out of hand quickly in the second quarter though, and Purdue would wind up winning 89-67. Sophomore Aaliyah Nye led the Illini with 19 points in the loss. On Sunday in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes defeated Illinois 82-56 but the Illini enjoyed a breakout performance from freshman Jayla Oden. Oden led the team and finished with a career-high 16 points.
This Week: Illinois continues its road trip this week with games at #6 Indiana on Thursday at 6 p.m. and at Northwestern on Sunday afternoon at 2.
WRESTLING (2-3 Overall, 0-3 Big Ten)
Last Week: The loaded Big Ten has not been kind to Illinois so far as the Illini moved to 0-3 in conference play after a 25-13 loss at #17 Purdue on Friday. The Illini won four of the 10 bouts, with decisions from freshman Lucas Byrd (133), senior Christian Kanzler (149), and sophomore Zac Braunagel (184) along with a major decision from sophomore Luke Luffman (285).
This Week: An in-state rivalry is renewed on Saturday as Northwestern visits #24 Illinois at 1 p.m. in State Farm Center.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING (5-3 Overall, 1-2 Big Ten)
Last Week: Illinois dropped its final home meet of the season to Nebraska by a score of 178-122 on Saturday. The Illini still picked up six first-place finishes in the loss, with senior Abby Cabush setting the ARC pool record in her 200 yard freestyle win at 1:48.68.
This Week: On Saturday morning at 10, the Illini will take on Purdue in West Lafayette for their final dual meet of the season.
MEN’S GYMNASTICS (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
This Week: Big Ten season gets underway on Saturday with a top-ten matchup as the seventh-ranked Illini travel to #8 Penn State for a 3 p.m. meet.
WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (1-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: Friday’s meet between Illinois and Nebraska was postponed due to health and safety protocols. The programs will attempt to reschedule for a later date.
This Week: The Illini women also travel to Penn State on Saturday, with their match beginning at 4 p.m.
MEN’S TENNIS (1-1 Overall, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last Week: It was a busy week for the 23rd-ranked Illini as they finished up the MLK Invitational at Georgia Tech and then played two duals on Saturday in Champaign. First, on Monday, Illinois split its matches against Columbia, winning three of five singles matches but just one of three in doubles. Sophomore Lucas Horve went undefeated on the weekend. Then on Saturday, #6 Ohio State swept the Illini at Atkins Tennis Center, winning all three doubles sets and three singles matches to win 4-0. The other three singles matches remained unfinished. The Illini rebounded later in the day though, as they swept Chicago State themselves. It was Illinois sweeping the doubles point this time, and it won the first three singles matches as well before the match was called. Senior Nic Meister’s victory clinched the match for the Illini.
WOMEN’S TENNIS (4-1 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini had a massive week, going undefeated in their four matches. The week began with a 5-2 win over BYU on Monday to finish off the Bella the Ball Invitational in Las Vegas. Illinois would not lose a single match the rest of the week. On Thursday, the Illini defended their home court and dominated Harvard in a 7-0 win. Then, in two home matches against Eastern Illinois and Chicago State on Sunday, Illinois won 7-0 and 4-0, respectively.
This Week: Illinois will participate in ITA Kickoff Weekend in Tallahassee, facing off against #15 Florida State on Saturday and then either #20 Florida or Florida International on Sunday.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
Last Week: At the Illini Invitational on Friday and Saturday, the Illini men and women both narrowly finished second behind Illinois State. The men placed second out of five, missing first place by just five points. The Illini women were even closer to winning, coming in one point shy of ISU to finish second out of seven teams. In all, it was still a very successful weekend for Illinois as it brought home 18 event titles, with 10 on the men’s side and eight on the women’s.
This Week: Both Illini teams head to Louisville on Saturday for the PNC Lenny Lyles Invitational.