Illini Men Earn First Big Ten Win of the Season

Illinois player Trent Frazier and Indiana player Josh Newkirk

Illini Trent Frazier and Indiana's Josh Newkirk disentangle themselves in front of the Hoosier bench, Wednesday night during the Illinois-Indiana game at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

Rob McColley/Illinois Public Media

Brad Underwood tallied his first career Big Ten win last night as the Illini men beat Indiana 73-71.

But it wasn't pretty.

Illinois led by 8 with just over a minute to play, and then nearly gave the game away. Trent Frazier threw an interception, missed two free-throws, and fouled a player in the act of shooting — all of which allowed Indiana a chance to tie at the end of regulation.

Frazier, a freshman from Wellington, Florida, has emerged as one of the Illini's most important players. He acknowledged that — as his career progresses — he'll need to be more reliable at crunch time.

“Down the stretch, I made a few mistakes”, said Frazier. “Coach pulled me to the side and told me that he’s going to continue to put the ball in my hands and trust me. I’m going to be in that situation a hundred more times this year, so I gotta step up and make those free-throws and do it for the team.”

Underwood mirrored that sentiment, saying the team's first conference win probably needed to be as hard as it was. And despite the mistakes, Underwood said Frazier will be his guy.

“I told Trent tonight, you need to understand for the rest of your career, I’m going to put you in that spot”, said Underwood. “I’ve been where he’s at. I missed the free-throws one night. And that’s a bad feeling. Here’s a young man who was happy we won, and crying because he knew it wasn’t perfect. But without him, he’s never in that situation. I’m going to put the ball in Trent’s hands the rest of his career.”

Frazier and Leron Black each scored 19 points for the Illini. Kipper Nichols added a dozen, and Te'Jon Lucas 11.

Juwan Morgan led all scorers with 28 for Indiana. He also grabbed a game-high 8 rebounds. Zach McRoberts added 10 points for the Hoosiers.

Indiana made 57% of its shots from the floor, but only 55% (16-29) from the free-throw line, arguably the consequential stat of the game. Illinois converted 46% of its shots, and 72% of its free-throws. Indiana won the rebound battle 28-24, but Illinois forced 18 turnovers, while committing only 14.

Halfway through the Big Ten schedule, the Hoosiers are now 5-and-4 in conference standings, 12-and-9 overall.

Illinois remains at the bottom of the Big Ten, with a 1-8 conference record. On the year, Illinois has 11 wins and 11 losses. The Illini have a couple of days off before returning to practice. They'll face Rutgers, at home, Tuesday night.

Story source: WILL