No. 24 Illinois hangs on to beat Northwestern

Sophomore sinks bucket, two free throws in last 18 seconds, Trent Frazier scores 16 points, including four three-pointers, as Illini beat Wildcats 75-71.

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Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn faces heavy pressure from Northwestern’s Robbie Beran (31), Miller Kopp (10) and Ryan Young in the first half Saturday in Champaign.

Holly Hart/AP

CHAMPAIGN — As Illinois coach Brad Underwood watched Northwestern play his Illini down to the wire, he couldn’t help but feel he was watching his own team from a year ago.

Trent Frazier scored 16 points, including four three-pointers, and Underwood’s No. 24 Illini hung on for a 75-71 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday.

“Northwestern is young but, boy, are they talented,” Underwood said. “It was very much like watching our team from last year.”

Illinois (13-4, 5-2 Big Ten) had five players in double figures. Ayo Dosunmu scored 14 points, Giorgi Bezhanishvili had 13, Kofi Cockburn 12 and Andres Feliz 10.

“It feels good to be 5-2 and second in the Big Ten,” Dosunmu said. “But we have more work to do, and we start it at tomorrow’s practice.”

Illinois led by four at the half and was up 69-60 with 3:50 remaining. Northwestern went on an 8-2 spurt capped by A.J. Turner’s three with 44 seconds left. Dosunmu answered with a jumper 26 seconds later. Miller Kopp hit a three with seven seconds remaining to get Northwestern within 73-71. Dosunmu then hit two free throws a second later to seal the game.

“You want to stop Ayo? Go ahead,” Underwood said.

“I just came up big,” Dosunmu said of his late-game jumper. “Got to my pull-up, and it came up clean.”

Robbie Beran led the Wildcats(6-11, 1-6) with 17 points. Kopp had 16, Pat Spencer 14 and Ryan Young 12.

Frazier was 3-for-5 from the field in the first half, all three from beyond the arc. He also hit two free throws and led all scorers with 11 points before halftime.

Illinois led 38-34 at the half.

Frazier logged his sixth consecutive game without a turnover.

“That’s unbelievable,” Bezhanishvili said. “He’s a leader and just an elite guard, not just in the conference but in the country.”

Dosunmu agreed.

“Trent makes the right decisions and the right reads,” he said. “He doesn’t force it.”

Underwood was gratified to see Frazier be more offensive-minded after mainly playing his trademark defense in the last few games.

“Everyone knows Trent is capable of a 30-point half,” Underwood said. “He’s still evolving, but, boy, do we need his offense.”

Meanwhile, Northwestern coach Chris Collins has seen his share of tough losses.

“Really rough,” he said, “I was proud of our effort, though. We didn’t drive down from Chicago in a snowstorm last night to be a sacrificial lamb.”

Collins said the loss is a letdown but also a credit to his young team.

“It’s my job to turn it into a positive,” he said. “We played well, we just came up a couple of possessions short.”

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