Illinois’ Big Ten title hopes aren’t dead yet.
The Illini desperately needed a win on Sunday to keep pace with Wisconsin and Purdue atop the Big Ten leaderboard, and the Illini left Ann Arbor, Mich., with its fifth-straight victory over the Wolverines, 93-85.
Purdue was knocked off on Saturday by Michigan State putting the Boilermakers only a half game up over the Illini, and Wisconsin managed to do the improbable — escaping Piscataway with a win over Rutgers, positioning the Badgers in sole possession of first place for the time being. Wisconsin and Purdue still have a head-to-head matchup remaining, meaning Illinois essentially needs to win out and hope the Boilermakers avenge their early-season loss to the Badgers to clinch a share of the title.
After tying the program record for three-pointers made in a game on Thursday against Ohio State, Alfonso Plummer picked up right where he left off. The southpaw scored 16 of Illinois’ first 25 on 4-6 3-FGs and half of the team’s first-half points (23). His hot start from deep turned out to be contagious with Trent Frazier and Coleman Hawkins cashing in from behind the arc and the Illini converting 7 of their first 10.
The second half was a battle of the bigs, though, with Kofi Cockburn and Hunter Dickinson duking it out in the paint. Illinois quickly stretched its lead to double digits thanks to an almost flawless start from the field and 29 combined second-half points from Cockburn and Andre Curbelo.
Michigan cut it as close as two with just over two minutes left because of poor throw shooting and dumb fouls on Illinois’ end. The Illini shot just 11-of-19 from the charity stripe in the second stanza, allowing the Wolverines to hang around, but never quite mount the comeback. Frazier delivered the three-point dagger with less than a minute remaining as Illinois pulled away, 93-85.
- Alfonso Plummer (ILL): 26 PTS, 8-12 FG, 6-9 3-FG
- Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 27 PTS, 11-15 FG, 7 REB
- Trent Frazier (ILL): 17 PTS, 6-11 FG, 3-3 3-FG
- Caleb Houstan (UM): 21 PTS, 6-8 FG, 7-7 FT
- DeVante’ Jones (UM): 25 PTS, 10 AST
- Hunter Dickinson (UM): 13 PTS, 4-13 FG, 11 REB
Illinois won its 13th Big Ten game, marking the program’s first-ever run of 13+ B1G wins in three straight seasons.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) February 27, 2022
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
I think this is what they call a splash party.
Coleman Hawkins can do it all.
TWEET OF THE GAME
We agree, Jason.
If you could re-create in a dunk contest what Coleman Hawkins just did in Ann Arbor, you’d get at least a 9.5.— Jason Benetti (@jasonbenetti) February 27, 2022
Illinois heads back to Champaign for its penultimate home matchup of the season on Thursday night against Penn State.
Tipoff against the Nittany Lions is set for 6 p.m. CT on FS1.