CHAMPAIGN — The list of reasons why Illinois could have (and maybe should have?) lost Friday night’s game against Michigan was a long one.
Michigan played without leading scorer and rebounder Hunter Dickinson. The Wolverines had more offensive rebounds than the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country, double the second-chance points and more points in the paint.
Michigan also made more hustle plays, diving on the floor for loose balls as Illinois coach Brad Underwood pleaded with his team to do the same.Didn’t matter, though.
Illinois has Trent Frazier, and Michigan doesn’t.
Frazier emerged in the second half for the second straight game, Kofi Cockburn posted another double-double and the 25th-ranked Illini turned a close game into a 68-53 home win against the Wolverines.
Frazier put up 18 points, seven assists and three rebounds, with most of those highlights coming in the second half. Cockburn, who had a serious size advantage on Moussa Diabate and Jace Howard, finished wth 21 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double and 11th of the season. Cockburn was able to capitalize when his teammates got him the ball in a good place to score, which wasn’t always consistent. But Illinois (13-3, 6-0 Big Ten) did enough late against Michigan (7-7, 1-3) to post its sixth straight win.
“He’s not just big,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said of Cockburn. “He’s a talent. He’s worked on his game. He does a really good job of finishing in the paint. I started thinking about, ‘You know what, Jace, let me borrow that jersey because I have one more year left of eligibility.”
The way Michigan played in the first half — Illinois only led 26-22 at halftime — was a key discussion in the Illinois locker room. Mostly that being on the wrong side of those plays isn’t what the Illini are about.
“They came out with way more energy and punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond,” Frazier said. “The second half we had to come out with more energy and effort. I’m glad this team responded. We threw more punches in the second half.”