CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — With its two preseason All-Americans out, No. 24 Illinois found a way to upset No. 10 Michigan State 56-55 Tuesday night at State Farm Center, moving the Illini into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten Conference, one half game ahead of the Spartans and Wisconsin.
“Who gave us a chance? Who would’ve thought?” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “When you got character, and you got guys that are together, you can do a lot of things.”
Kofi Cockburn was on the bench, missing his second straight game in concussion protocol. Andre Curbelo is in health and safety protocol, meaning he was not in attendance. After playing just 14 minutes and battling through sickness last Friday at Maryland, the sophomore point guard entered protocol this week. Even without two of their best players, the Illini hung on down the stretch to outlast the Spartans.
“Having guys out that are key pieces, knowing we can win without them,” Illinois senior guard Trent Frazier said. “Don’t matter the circumstances. Like you said, always ready to go. And ready to step up and make plays for this team.”
Trent Frazier scored a game high 16 points with Alfonso Plummer also in double-figures for the Illini with 11. Marcus Bingham Jr. led Michigan State with 13 points with Gabe Brown adding 10. Freshman Luke Goode was a key contributor off the bench for the Illini, making 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
“He’s on the scout team, he doesn’t run our plays a lot,” Underwood said. “Usually he’s running what the opponent does. And yet he’s cerebral, he’s tougher than heck.”
“You go through the game reps and you go through the warm up just getting ready for your opportunity,” Goode said. “Coach has a lot of faith in me, my teammates have a lot of faith in me. When the ball comes to me, I was ready to go tonight.”
Illinois led by 14 at halftime, up 34-20, behind 10 points from super-senior Trent Frazier. The lead was up to as many as 15 points with 14:18 remaining at 42-27 before the Spartans started to chip away, cutting it to single digits with about 10 minutes to play. Michigan State held Illinois to just four points in the final 9:46 of the game, with just one field goal in that stretch.
The Spartans also out-rebounded the Illini 41-27 and made 11 more free throws, yet still lost the game. On top of it all, Trent Frazier missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with six seconds left and the Illini leading by one. It left an opportunity for the Spartans, who got a foul called with 0.2 seconds remaining. Malik Hall missed the front end, before making the second to end the game.
Illinois now heads to Northwestern on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. game in Evanston.