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This Week in Illini Athletics: Feb. 28-Mar. 6, 2022

Illinois men’s basketball could clinch its first Big Ten championship in 17 years.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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 (12-8 Overall, 13-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: The 15th-ranked Illini split two tough games, losing an 86-83 thriller to #22 Ohio State at home on Thursday but bouncing back on Sunday to take down Michigan 93-85 on the road. Illinois held a one-point lead over OSU at halftime behind six threes from Alfonso Plummer, who would go on to tie a program record with eight in the game. The Buckeyes came out of halftime on a 16-2 run though, and they held a double-digit lead for the majority of the second half. But the Illini wouldn’t go down without a fight. Down 12 with three and a half minutes remaining, Illinois rattled off a 10-0 run in under two minutes, cutting Ohio State’s lead to two. The Illini couldn’t find a way to get a stop in the last two minutes, however, and OSU snuck away with a three-point win. Plummer’s 26 points (on eight threes) led the Illini. On Sunday at Michigan, Illinois grabbed an early lead and never let go of it, never trailing in its fifth consecutive victory over the Wolverines. The Illini entered halftime up 46-38 behind 23 points from Plummer, and Kofi Cockburn took it from there. The junior scored 19 of his team-high 27 points in the second half, shooting 11-15 from the field on the day. A late Michigan run gave the Illini a scare, but Trent Frazier cashed a late three to shut the door on the Wolverines.

This Week: The final week of the regular season is upon us, and Illinois still has a shot at the Big Ten title, although it needs some help. The Illini also need to take care of business at home against Penn State on Thursday at 6 p.m. and against Iowa on Sunday night at 6:30 for Senior Night.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (6-19 Overall, 1-13 Big Ten)

Last Week: The regular season came to a close this week for the Illini, with a 87-54 loss at Minnesota on Thursday and a 66-56 loss to Rutgers on Sunday’s Senior Day. Illinois hung tight with Rutgers, trailing by just two entering the fourth quarter. A late run put the game away though for the Scarlet Knights as they came away with the win. Junior De’Myla Brown led the Illini with 15 points.

This Week: It’s Big Ten Tournament week in Indianapolis, and the Illini are set to play Wisconsin in the first round at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Should Illinois keep winning, it would play Nebraska in the second round on Thursday and #6 Michigan in the quarterfinals on Friday.

BASEBALL (2-4 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: Illinois went 1-2 on the weekend in South Carolina, splitting two games against Middle Tennessee but dropping the series finale to Coastal Carolina. Sophomore Cole Kirschsieper (1-0) threw six strong innings to pick up his first win of the young season on Friday, striking out four and allowing just 2 runs in the 7-4 victory over Middle Tennessee.

This Week: The Illini head north to Minnesota this weekend for a three-game series in the indoor U.S. Bank Stadium. Their first opponent is #13 Notre Dame on Friday, followed by West Virginia and Kansas on Saturday and Sunday.

SOFTBALL (6-4 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

This Week: After a week off, the Illini head to Louisville for games against Hofstra and Louisville on Saturday and Western Michigan and Louisville again on Sunday.

WRESTLING (3-7 Overall, 1-7 Big Ten)

This Week: The postseason begins for the Illini with the Big Ten Championships at Nebraska on Saturday and Sunday.

MEN’S GYMNASTICS (2-1 Overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

This Week: The 6th-ranked Illini are back in action at #3 Nebraska on Saturday for a 5 p.m. tri-meet with Minnesota and the hosting Cornhuskers.

WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (3-3 Overall, 2-3 Big Ten)

Last Week: #20 Illinois began its three-week homestand with a 196.650-195.475 win over #24 Rutgers on Friday. Freshman Ruthuja Nataraj and junior Arayah Simons (vault, 9.900), junior Olivia O’Donnell (bars, 9.900), and junior Mia Takekawa (beam, 9.925) all secured event titles for the Illini.

This Week: The Illini host Central Michigan, Boise State, and Northern Illinois for a quad-meet on Friday at 7.

MEN’S TENNIS (3-6 Overall, 0-2 Big Ten)

This Week: The Illini finish off their homestand this weekend with some tough tests at Atkins; Illinois hosts #4 Baylor on Friday evening at 6, UIC on Saturday at noon, and #2 TCU on Saturday at 6 p.m.

WOMEN’S TENNIS (7-3 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: The Illini beat Cornell 4-2 on Sunday at Atkins Tennis Center to finish an undefeated month of February. A sweep of the doubles point gave Illinois the early lead, and singles victories from juniors Ashley Yeah and Josie Frazier and freshman Kasia Treiber sealed the win for the Illini.

This Week: Illinois looks to extend its winning streak on a Big 12 road trip with matches at Kansas on Friday at 5 p.m. and at #3 Oklahoma on Sunday at noon.

MEN’S GOLF

Last Week: #19 Illinois had a rough first round at UNLV’s 15-team Southern Highlands Collegiate on Sunday, and it currently sits in 13th place heading into the second round. Junior Adrien Dumont de Chassart (T22, -3) currently leads the Illini.

This Week: The Illini will play the second and third rounds of the Southern Highlands Collegiate today and tomorrow.

WOMEN’S GOLF

Last Week: The Illini placed two in the top five and broke a program record with a 54-hole score of 840 (-24) as it finished second at the 15-team ICON Invitational hosted by Houston, placing behind only #14 USC. Seniors Crystal Wang (-13) and Kornkamol Sukaree (-8) finished in third and fifth, respectively.

This Week: A two-week break awaits the Illini before they head to South Carolina for Charleston’s Briar’s Creek Invitational on March 14 and 15.

MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD

Last Week: At the Big Ten Championships in Geneva, Ohio, both the Illini men and Illini women finished in 10th place. Illinois came home with three event titles in total and swept the men’s and women’s mile, with senior Jon Davis (4:08.37) winning on the men’s side and junior Olivia Howell (4:33.78) taking the women’s crown.

This Week: The Illini get a week off before the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 11 and 12.