In the previous 115 years of men’s basketball being played at the University of Illinois, a triple-double was accomplished two times.
Following the 94-63 victory over Minnesota Saturday, Ayo Dosunmu has now managed to record the statistical feat twice in a 14-day period. The junior guard from Chicago, who is getting nearly every major news outlet to follow his campaign for Naismith Player of the Year and Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, put up 19 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a blowout road win for the No. 5 Illini inside Minnesota’s Williams Arena.
“We know the sense of urgency we need to play with as the regular season is winding down,” Dosunmu said.
Illinois handed Minnesota its 3rd-largest loss in Williams Arena history, which is a building that opened in 1928. Illinois’ 12-3 conference record is its best through 15 games since the 2005 Big Ten championship team went 15-1 in Big Ten play
Dosunmu had 21 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in a 75-60 home win over Wisconsin on Feb. 6 and filled up the stat sheet with double figures once again Saturday as the Illini (16-5, 12-3 in Big Ten Conference) rolled to an impressive road win against a Minnesota squad that was 13-1 at home this season coming into this weekend. The only thing Dosunmu didn’t do was called this triple-double in the halftime locker room like he did 14 days earlier against Wisconsin.
“I’m not a psychic,” Dosunmu said with a laugh in his post-game Zoom media conference. “Like I said before, I was just trying to go out today and have fun.”
Dosunmu, who is on pace to become just the second Big Ten player since 1993 to average 20 points, six rebounds and five assists (Ohio State’s Evan Turner, 2009-10) has quickly caught the attention of enough folks to make the Big Ten and National Player of the Year race with Iowa’s Luka Garza an attention grabber. Dosunmu’s head coach refused to ignore his obvious bias with some choice words for analysts who don’t think voting for his guard at this point would be appropriate.
"Well, damn. I don't know who is better,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “I have no idea who in the hell anyone thinks is better than him right now."
As Dosunmu continued to build his historic three-year legacy in a No. 11 Illinois jersey, Underwood said he knew exactly what kind of memory he was approaching as the Illini had easily secured its sixth win away from home. The Illini coach said he gave Dosunmu about 90 more seconds of garbage time action to secure the rebounds needed for the triple-double.
“When Ayo rebounds like that, we’re just electric offensively,” Underwood said. “I knew about late and it’s a tough deal because Richard (Pitino) is a friend so I explained to him what was going on there.”
Illinois built a lead as big as 36 points with seven minutes left to go and completed a regular season sweep of Minnesota (13-10, 6-10) by a combined 58 points after defeating the Gophers 92-65 in Champaign for the Big Ten opener on Dec. 15.
Dosunmu is one of only three Illini players to ever record a triple-double and owns two of the three triple-double marks among Big Ten players in this season.
Illinois guard Trent Frazier finished with 15 points that included a half-court shot to beat the halftime buzzer. Frazier’s highlight reel shot was the product of, once again, staying with Minnesota star guard Marcus Carr. In Champaign on Dec. 15, Carr registered a paltry 3-of-13 shooting as Frazier managed to stay in front of him the entire evening and Saturday afternoon was the same story as the Gophers leading scorer finished with just 12 points just who entered the game averaging 19.4 on 3-of-11 shooting.
“I think it’s about me being laser-focused when we face a team that has a guy like that who can put 30 to 40 (points) up at any given game,” Frazier said. “I try to put myself in great positions to get deflections, steals and give our team a chance to win on the defensive end.”
Illinois got 31 points off their fast break transition offense as their guards recorded 21 of the team’s 37 rebounds and the Illini forced Minnesota into 18 turnovers.
“Really proud of our guys because I thought it was a 40-minute defensive effort,” Underwood said. “I thought we did a really nice job of disrupting their patterns, rhythms, sets and trying to take those away.”
Illinois recorded its second conference road win this season when scoring 90-plus points (Dec. 23, 2020 at Penn State - 98-81). The last time Illinois had two conference wins on the road scoring 90+ points was the 1990-91 season (March 2, 1991 at Northwestern - 91-81) and Feb. 10, 1991 at Minnesota - 94-74).
Illinois is still behind No. 3 Michigan (15-1, 10-1) in the Big Ten standings by winning percentage in league games but the Wolverines play at No. 4 Ohio State (18-4, 12-4) on Sunday in a noon tip on CBS. The Illini will end its 2020-21 season with four of its last five regular season games on the road including trips to Michigan (March 2) and Ohio State (March 6). ESPN.com analyst Joe Lunardi has Illinois as the highest ranked No. 2 seed in his projected NCAA tournament field directly behind Michigan and Ohio State.