Player of the game
Illinois guard Alfonso Plummer
Not to diminish what Kofi Cockburn did for Illinois — and he did a lot with 23 points and 13 rebounds — but the Illini probably don’t win unless Plummer comes off the bench and hits seven three-pointers like he did Tuesday night against Kansas State. Cockburn alone won’t be enough for this Illinois team. The Illini big man needs some help, and it was Plummer delivering it with corner three after corner three to beat the Wildcats.
Kansas State: B-
What was left of the Illini backcourt gets credit for not letting the game slip away with Andre Curbelo in and out of the game in the second half and Trent Frazier going down with an injury. While those two didn’t do much on the scoring front, they combined for 12 assists. Losing them could have crippled Illinois. It didn’t, with Plummer and Co. playing solid ball down the stretch.
Kansas State: C-
The Wildcats found out firsthand how difficult it is to stop Cockburn. To be fair, they mostly didn’t. The Illinois big man put up his first double-double of the season, and when he wasn’t scoring (he was 8 of 10 from the field) he was going to the foul line (12 fouls drawn). Now if only Illinois could get Coleman Hawkins back on track after he played so well in the opening week of the season.
Kansas State: A
It was dueling guards off the bench for Illinois and Kansas State, with Plummer giving the Illini a spark and Markquis Nowell doing the same for the Wildcats. The latter led Kansas State with 19 points, and the Little Rock transfer probably had too easy a time of scoring at the rim given his 5-foot-8 stature. Of note for the Illini beyond Plummer was a tight rotation, with only Austin Hutcherson and Jacob Grandison joining him at 18-plus minutes on the court.
Kansas State: C+
The Illini’s first win against a high major opponent this season didn’t come without a cost. Frazier’s injury looked bad, and Curbelo is still not right after his concussion in the team’s first exhibition game. That’s a concern. What is less of a concern is Illinois still managing to pair a dominant post performance from Cockburn with some consistent shooting. That will be of serious importance moving forward.