Emotional Rescue


Walkon
Jan 16, 2022
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7 Comments

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College basketball coaches - and by extension their teams - are creatures of structure. They crave consistency. Every hour of every week is scheduled. Practice time - conditioning - film study - meals - academic hours. Practices are mapped out by the minute. The scouting report is EVERYTHING.

So after a harder than it needed to be win at Nebraska on Tuesday night, the Illini flew back to Champaign with a singular focus: two days to prepare for Michigan. Otherwise known as the game every Illini coach, player, and fan had circled on the calendar since Hunter Dickinson called the entire Illinois fanbase "ANNOYING" back in October.

Game planning for Michigan would have started even before the Nebraska game. One of the Illini assistants would be assigned the scout and be responsible for creating the game plan. The scouting reports were likely given to the Illini players on the flight back from Lincoln.

Then two days of practice installing a game plan that almost certainly revolved around Hunter Dickinson. There would be film room sessions on what Michigan does on offense and defense and then practice on the floor working on our counters. Lastly, a walk through on Friday morning for a final drill down on the key components of the game plan.

Then 15 minutes before game time you throw everything in the trash after you find out Dickinson isn't playing due to lingering COVID issues. So while the general consensus on press row was something along the lines of "well this game just got a lot less interesting", I promise you the Illini coaching staff was in major scramble mode.

Give Michigan a ton of credit for playing the role of wounded animal to the letter. They dictated the action for most of the first half with crazy eights. Eight offensive rebounds leading to eight second chance points and a ball pressure half court defense that turned us over - you guessed it - eight times. We were clearly out of sorts. Even hampered by significant foul trouble in the first half, Michigan was able to scramble their way to half time only trailing by four points 26-22. They were able to turn most of the game into a "rock fight" - as Brad Underwood would coin the game afterwards.

A State Farm Center crowd which had come ready to party was instead fast asleep. No one likes rock fights.

Halftime allowed for a reboot on offense and we pivoted in the second half to a more ball screen oriented approach which allowed the Illinois perimeter players more freedom of movement against the Michigan pressure. Yet the shots still weren't falling with consistency and with just 6:55 remaining in the game the Wolverines had pushed to within a single point at 45-44.

The SFC crowd was finally awake - but sleepiness had been replaced by anxiety. The parallel narrative was unavoidable. We went into Ann Arbor last year and won without Ayo Dosunmu …could Michigan do the same this season without their superstar?

Enter Trent Frazier. Like he has done so many times before he transformed the SFC from church gathering into dance party. The super senior's super power is an almost preternatural ability to control the crowd. It's as if he has an internal building energy dial and an innate sense of how to know exactly when to turn it up. That dial, of course, goes to 11.

He has developed an almost symbiotic relationship with the fans in attendance. Frazier turns up the juice and the crowd responds to his "heaters" like no player in recent memory - Ayo included.

It seems to be common knowledge from those in attendance that his first half point explosion against Arizona game triggered the loudest SFC crowd response in years. Frazier had a similar outburst in the second half against Maryland when his 11 straight points turned a one point deficit into a seven point lead in just three minutes of game time. There was the obligatory "try to quell the crowd" Maryland time out amidst the run, but it was futile. The SFC was already too far bonkers.

So, with his team struggling and the SFC crowd wobbling on its edge on Friday night, once again there was Trent Frazier to the emotional rescue. Over less than five minutes of game time he did this:

6:06 2H: 47-44 Illinois

  • Steal

  • Two free throws

  • Assist to Jacob Grandison three pointer

  • Layup

  • Three pointer

  • Layup

  • Two free throws

  • Dunk attempt that if successful (he was hacked on the attempt) would have been the last event ever to occur at the State Farm Center. The building would have spontaneously combusted.

  • Two free throws

  • Assist to DMW three pointer

  • Trident to Michigan's heart

1:17 2H: 66-51 Illinois

He played a part in 19 straight Illini points to put this one in the books. Oh, and he also held Michigan's DeVante' Jones (who had 11 first half points) to just three second half baskets. Closing time indeed.

With the national college player of the year lists already chock full of Big Ten players (KenPom's top 10 POY rankings include Kofi, EJ Liddell, Johnny Davis, Keegan Murray, Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Zach Edey), it's going to be tough for Frazier to crack 1st team all Big Ten, but he is certainly making a case for second team honors. In conference games alone he's averaging over 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. And for the love of everything, would someone please give this dude Big Ten Defensive POY?

We can all have a nice long talk after this season plays out in its entirety about whether his jersey belongs in the rafters, but for now let's just go with the old standby of "#1 in your program and #1 in your hearts."

Take us out Mick

Comments

ATOillini on January 16, 2022 @ 02:01 PM

“I will be your knight in shining armor coming to your emotional rescue” - June 1980

Thanks Mick. Thanks Walkon. Thanks Trent.

AGig21 on January 16, 2022 @ 02:19 PM

I had to look up the definition of "preternatural" but quickly got the "That dial, of course, goes to 11" reference, which probably explains a lot. Gonna miss Trent. May not make either first or second team but he's definitely high in the ranks of all-time favorite Illini players.

HNLINI on January 16, 2022 @ 04:55 PM

While third party accolades and rafter ceremonies are nice, I don't think any serious Illini fan has any trouble at all understanding exactly what Trent has meant to this program from the day he set foot on campus. He, along with Damonte, represent the heart and soul of the basketball resurgence. Let's hope it keeps going when they depart.

IlliniJoe81 on January 16, 2022 @ 07:57 PM

I would support a “most minutes in an Illini uniform” banner in the SFC. Dee Brown for now but Trent likely soon. It’s worth recognizing.

beschman@gmail.com on January 16, 2022 @ 09:04 PM

Trent has been one of the best Illini players over the past 10 years, and no doubt the B1G defensive player of the year this season (and last)! Hang his jersey in the rafters!!!!

Chief4ever on January 17, 2022 @ 12:21 AM

100%

San Joaquin on January 17, 2022 @ 08:35 AM

Excellent piece. Wish he'd stay for 6 more.

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