Richey | Illini sophomore struggling with his confidence before Michigan visits

Richey | Illini sophomore struggling with his confidence before Michigan visits

CHAMPAIGN — Maybe Trent Frazier just needed to talk it out. Unburden himself a little.

The Illinois sophomore held a rather frank discussion about his recent struggles after Wednesday's practice. The 6-foot-1 lefty guard is in the midst of a three-game slump, fighting mostly with his jump shot as the Illini (4-11, 0-4 Big Ten) prepare for today's 7 p.m. showdown with No. 2 Michigan (15-0, 4-0) at State Farm Center.

At the center of Frazier's struggles? Believe it or not, it's a confidence issue.

After carrying Illinois in a win against East Tennessee State and almost single-handedly keeping the Illini in the Braggin' Rights game before Missouri pulled away for a 16-point victory, Frazier's just 3 of 16 from three-point range the last three games and putting up approximately half his season scoring average.

"I think I've let those missed shots get to me," Frazier said. "It's not me just not shooting the ball. They've given me that green light to shoot the ball whenever I can and whenever I have an open look.

"I'm in my own head right now, and I'm letting those missed shots get to me. Me being a veteran, I can't let that happen. I have to get back to me being super aggressive. Get in that rhythm and get that flow going."

Frazier had his struggles a year ago, too, as he adjusted to the college game. But his ever-present swagger never flagged. Right now he's in a bit of a crisis of confidence.

"I've never had that feeling where I was afraid to shoot the ball," Frazier said. "That's what's going on right now because I'm afraid to miss. Coach (Brad) Underwood has preached to me if I go 0 for 5 to always think that sixth one is going in.

"That's the mindset I don't have right now. I just think I'm going to keep missing. I turn down open looks. I'm letting my teammates down. I'm not doing a very good job of that, and I need to get back to being more aggressive, like I said, and helping this team win."

Underwood's confidence in Frazier hasn't wavered. He wanted the ball in Frazier's hands earlier this season with potential game-winning shots on the line against Gonzaga and Notre Dame. That didn't change Sunday at Northwestern. The plays Underwood drew up on the Illini's final two possessions of what ultimately tuned out to be a 68-66 loss to the Wildcats were designed to get the ball to either Frazier or freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu.

"I think it's a challenge from this standpoint because I don't look at it like he's struggling," Underwood said. "I look at it completely different. His floor game has been great. I think it's one of those deals when you feel that way you just get yourself in the gym and you work your way out of it.

"That's what I basically told him. You've got to get where you feel comfortable again. Whatever it is that helps. My belief and my feeling for Trent hasn't wavered a bit. I look at it a little bit different, but we've had conversations and he's been in the gym getting a lot of shots up."

Underwood continues to stress to Frazier to shoot when he's open. Frazier's teammates are just as vocal as the coaching staff. That didn't keep him from passing up some open looks in Wednesday's final practice before Illinois faces the second-ranked Wolverines.

"They get on my butt," Frazier said about his teammates. "They're screaming at me to shoot the basketball. It's a mental thing. It's all in my head. I just have to continue to work and just get better.

"I'm afraid of missing. I have to get back to being aggressive again, man, and doing what I do best for this team. I think that will give us a great chance to win this game (today)."

Frazier admits it's more difficult to get his shot off in the Big Ten than during nonconference play. He also acknowledges he's just making excuses for himself that defenders are too tall or their arms are too long. Using his speed to get by them is the answer if jump shots aren't open.

That type of mindset is what Frazier said assistant coach Jamall Walker is stressing. Walker, Frazier added, knows more about his game than any of the other coaches on the staff. The main thing Frazier's hearing from Walker?

"He's saying I'm holding myself back," Frazier said. "I'm not making my scoring threat my first option. I'm kind of being a little too passive right now. I understand it's because I'm not making shots, so I try to get my teammates involved. Find the hot guy. Get my other teammates involved in the game and get them going. He says I'm not being aggressive enough. I'm holding back, and I'm in my way. The only person in front of me stopping me is me."

Getting back on track is fairly simple in Frazier's mind. Just one made shot. That's all he needs.

"I kind of put my head down a little bit or get into my own head when I see 0 for 2 and that ball not going in there," he said. "I just need one to go in, and I'm very confident that first one will go in (today) and I'm every excited for this challenge."

Upset minded

No. 2 Michigan visits State Farm Center at 7 p.m. today and Illinois has a chance at a historic win. Here's how the Illini have fared against the No. 1 or No. 2-ranked teams in the the country in program history with the game in Champaign:

DATE OPPONENT RESULT

Feb. 7, 2013 No. 1 Indiana W 74-72

Jan. 22, 2011 No. 1 Ohio State L 73-68

Jan. 20, 2007 No. 2 Wisconsin L 71-64

Dec. 1, 2004 No. 1 Wake Forset W 91-73

Feb. 20, 1991 No. 2 Ohio State L 73-64

Jan. 14, 1987 No. 2 Iowa L 91-88

Dec. 24, 1983 No. 2 Kentucky L 56-54

Jan. 11, 1979 No. 1 Michigan State W 57-55

Jan. 17, 1976 No. 1 Indiana L 83-55

Feb. 24, 1975 No. 1 Indiana L 112-89

Feb. 27, 1965 No. 1 Michigan L 80-79

Jan. 4, 1965 No. 2 Indiana W 86-81

Dec. 4, 1964 No. 1 UCLA W 110-83

Feb. 8, 1964 No. 2 Michigan L 93-82

March 11, 1961 No. 1 Ohio State L 95-66

Dec. 17, 1957 No. 2 San Francisco W 62-33

Feb. 28, 1953 No. 2 Indiana L 91-79

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