CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois basketball re-emerged as a Big Ten contender on Friday by knocking off No. 7 Iowa — first-place Michigan’s previous No. 1 contender — with an 80-75 win at State Farm Center.
In a game that was never separated by more than seven points, No. 19 Illinois (11-5, 7-3 Big Ten) edged Iowa (12-4, 6-3 Big Ten) with a 7-0 run near the end of the game, aided with clutch scoring, including a Jacob Grandison three, two Andre Curbelo free throws and two Trent Frazier free throws, and defensive stops.
Iowa did have a chance to tie with under 10 seconds left, but Jordan Bohannon missed a three. Kofi Cockburn (9 points, 10 rebounds) then missed the front end of a one-and-one but got his own rebound and was fouled again. He iced the game with two free throws.
Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois with 25 points (11-18 FG), including 19 in the first half. Trent Frazier scored a season-high 24 points (8-13 FG, 4-9 three), and Jacob Grandson had his first double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) in an Illini uniform.
Joe Wieskamp led Iowa with 21 points, making 5 of 6 from three. But the Illini (and foul trouble) limited Luka Garza to 19 points and four rebounds, far under his averages (. Illinois made the national player of the year frontrunner work for his points. Connor McCaffery scored a season-high 11 points.
Both teams shot well from beyond the arc (Iowa 10-25 from three, Illinois 8-19 from three), but Illinois had an 11-point advantage at the free-throw line (14-17 FT to Iowa’s 3-6 FT). Iowa had an 18-8 advantage on points off turnovers, but Illinois had an 18-8 advantage in fastbreak points.
Saturday’s win was the Illini’s fifth win over an AP Top-10 team under Brad Underwood and third of the last calendar year.
What it means: Despite setbacks earlier this month against Maryland and Ohio State, the Illini are right back in the thick of the Big Ten title race following its first true marquee win of the season. The Illini now are in a tie for second place in the conference with Wisconsin and have the tiebreaker over Iowa, who they will not play again. Illinois played a full 40 minutes and had an edge throughout the game. Illinois looked like the top-10 team we all expected in the preseason, and so did Iowa. That was a heck of a game, and this is a heck of a rivalry.
Star of the game: Trent Frazier, Big Ten Bucket Getter, re-emerged and the Illini sorely needed him. Frazier’s 24 points were the most he’d scored since he poured in 30 against Minnesota on Jan. 30, 2019, almost exactly two years ago — a stretch of 59 games. If Frazier’s scoring continues to uptick, the Illini become far more dangerous. But Frazier also made a huge impact on defense, limiting Jordan Bohannon to six points on 2-for-4 shooting.
Stat of the game: Ayo Dosunmu had struggled in first halves recently, scoring just 18 combined points in the first halves of the previous four games, shooting 23 percent from the field. On Friday, Dosunmu had 19 first-half points on 9-for-12 shooting to help Illinois build a 43-41 halftime lead.
Don’t overlook: Jacob Grandison continues to earn his spot in the starting rotation and earned a career-high 30 minutes on Friday. He gives the Illini more skill, more length and more great effort on the glass. Most importantly, the Illini are 2-0 with Grandson as a starter. His third career double-double, and first in an Illini uniform since transferring from Holy Cross, were sorely needed.
What’s next: Illinois heads to Indiana on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. CT tipoff. The Illini defeated the Hoosiers 69-60 on Dec. 26 in Champaign behind 30 points from Ayo Dosunmu. Indiana (9-7, 4-5) has lost three of its last five, including home losses to Purdue and Rutgers this month, but Archie Miller’s squad did win at Iowa 81-69. Trayce Jackson-Davis leads the Hoosiers in scoring (20.1 points), rebounding (8.7) and blocks (1.8).