CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The most important Big Ten game of the season so far for Illinois was not as high-powered as fans expected it to be coming in, but the Illini still came out with the important win over Michigan.
Kofi Cockburn led the way with yet another double-double and Trent Frazier showed his ability to close, scoring 11 points straight in the late second half. It was a wire to wire win but the Wolverines made it close at times without their best player Hunter Dickinson. For Cockburn, it did not matter who he had playing across from him.
“My mindset remains the same regardless of who I’m playing,” says Cockburn. “I think that’s a good attribute that I have. Coach instills in me that no matter who’s on the court, no matter what player it is, always go out there and try to destroy them and try to dominate them. That’s the narrative I’m trying to set. I don’t care who it is. Them not having Hunter, I don’t think that changed anything in my game, I just went out there and tried to play the game the right way.”
Michigan got the game within a point in the second half before Illinois was able to pull away down the stretch. For the second time this week, Illinois got caught by a big swing from the other team, as Nebraska played them close early as well. But the Illini keep winning, and now they know they are going to get every team’s best moving forward.
“Rock fight. Whatever you want to call it, it was all that,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “Every game’s a rock fight. I mean this league is good, its got great coaches, they’re going to take actions away, they’re going to scheme you. We found a way to persevere tonight.”
“We’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” says Frazier. “We don’t like at it as records or rankings or anything. We know teams are coming in here with a target on us and they’re going to want to beat Illinois.”
Illinois now moves into the top spot in the Big Ten after Michigan State fell to Northwestern on Saturday. Purdue will come to Champaign for a 11 a.m. tip on Monday.