A win is a win. Pretty or ugly at the end of the day another number in the W column is always a good thing. This win did not come easy for the Illini (12-5, 8-3 Big Ten) at all but they gutted it out and found a way to win. In the words of Andre Curbelo “We fought, we fought, we fought and we fought.” Brad Underwood echoed Curbelo saying “That's what you have to do to win on the road is show that grit and toughness.”
Their opponent, Indiana (9-8, 4-6 Big Ten) came into this game fresh off a massive win against Iowa and were looking to keep that momentum going.
The Hoosiers came out strong and put up a good fight but ultimately couldn’t overcome the Illini. The Illini, conversely made a lot of mistakes and struggled with execution for most of the first half. Underwood commented, “It was the first time in a while that I’ve been really really upset with my basketball team at halftime.” While they played better in the second half, mounting a comeback to tie the game and take it to overtime. Despite that, it took until that overtime for the Illini to shift into high gear and put the game away.
The story of this game was the sheer amount of fouls that were called. Between the two teams, a whopping 54 fouls were called. The Illini had two players Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili, foul out and two more with four fouls. The Hoosiers had two players foul out as well. It was hard for either team to get into a rhythm with all the fouls stopping play. This led to a lot of stagnant offense in the second half and reduced the pace to a crawl. At times it seemed there was a foul every time down the court and the almost three hour long game time shows just how many pauses there were.
The Illini were led by Trent Frazier who continued his hot streak with 19 points tonight. The senior hit four threes, three of them late in the fourth, and added four rebounds as well in a fantastic all around performance. Kofi Cockburn totaled his NCAA leading 12th double double of the season racking up 16 points and 10 rebounds. Cockburn had several thunderous dunks and played his best post defense of his career as well. Curbelo had another great game off the bench finishing with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists while playing 24 minutes. This win meant a lot to the freshman who made the comment after the game“Wow, that was big time.”
The Hooisers were led by their superstar Trayce Jackson-Davis who had 19 points and 14 rebounds in 40 minutes. Fellow big man Race Thompson totalled 18 points and eight rebounds on the night in one of his best games of the year.
This win keeps the Illini in the hunt for the Big Ten title and their goal of a championship. This is a veteran team full of players who know what they need to do in order to get the job done and that was proven tonight by the play of Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams. Their next game is at home against Wisconsin on Saturday.