LINCOLN – It was about a year ago when Illinois found themselves in a similar situation at Nebraska – in a tight game late, on the very of being upset, before a guard helped to pull the game out.
In that contest on February 7th, 2021, Ayo Dosunmus scored the last eight points of regulation to help the Illini force overtime, then scored eight more in overtime to help his team to an 81-71 victory.
On Tuesday night, 25th ranked Illinois was locked into another tight battle with the Cornhuskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena, and were having to watch star Kofi Cockburn’s minutes after he picked up his fourth foul. But once again, there was a guard who was there to save the day.
Trent Frazier scored the final seven points for Illinois on Tuesday, which was part of the 20 he scored in the second half and season-high 29 for the game. It helped turn what looked like an upset into an 81-71 Illini victory that improves them to 5-0 in the Big Ten.
That’s their best start in conference play since their celebrated 2004-2005 season, when they advanced to the National Championship game.
Frazier helped Illinois erase a three-point halftime deficit and came up big when Cockburn, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds, went to the bench after his fourth foul with 3:57 to go. But his teammates made sure he wouldn’t have re-enter, as the Illini outscored Nebraska 16-8 to finish the contest.
After the Cornhuskers tied it, Coleman Hawkins and Omar Payne had back-to-back buckets to push the lead to four. Da’Monte Williams’ three-pointer pushed the lead to seven before Frazier finished things off. He hit a three-pointer with just over a minute left to push the lead to ten before hitting four-straight free throws to end the game.
In his fifth year with the Illini, Frazier is inching closer to the number he had in his first two seasons when he had to shoulder more of the scoring load. He’s averaging 12.8 points per game – which is currently the second-highest of his career – with what would be career-highs in rebounds (3.2) and assists (3.1) as well.
Tuesday marked the third time that Frazier has scored 20 or more points this season, doing so against Marquette on November 15th (23 points) and Arizona on December 11th (27 Points). His efforts have helped Illinois hit stride before a two-game home stretch against Michigan Friday and then No. 7 Purdue on Monday.