CHAMPAIGN — Something has been missing from Trent Frazier's game the last two weeks.
Ever since the Illinois sophomore guard marched up and down the court at the Enterprise Center, scoring from any spot he chose in a loss to Missouri, his confidence and fervor have been absent.
Frazier is 8-of-30 with a combined 26 points in his last three games, and the Illini (4-11, 0-3) need the Frazier of old if they want to hang with or upset No. 2 Michigan on Thursday at the State Farm Center.
It's been evident that Frazier hasn't been the same player who has poured in 25 or more points three times this year, including dropping 29 on Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational.
“I’m in my own head right now," Frazier said. "I’m letting those missed shots get to me. Me being a veteran, I can’t let that happen. I have to get back to me being super aggressive and just trying to find my own quickly and get my own flow going."
It's the first time Frazier has shown flashes of having a kryptonite since bursting out of the phone booth with a cape in December of last season.
“I’ve never had that feeling where I was afraid to shoot the ball," he said. "I think that’s what’s going on right now because I’m afraid to miss. Coach Underwood has preached to me that if I go 0-for-5, I should always think that sixth one is going in.
"That’s the mindset I don’t have right now. I think I’m going to keep missing. I turn down open looks because I’m letting my teammates down and I’m not doing a very good job with that. I need to get back to being more aggressive and helping this team win."
Despite recent struggles, Frazier still has the green light to shoot from the coaching staff. He's had conversations with head coach Brad Underwood and assistant coach Jamall Walker, who Frazier says knows his game better than anyone on the staff.
Though Frazier is in a self-described funk, Underwood doesn't see it that way. In the last three games, Frazier has 10 assists and nine steals.
“It’s a lot of mental massaging," Underwood said. "I think it’s a challenge from this standpoint because I don't look at it like he’s struggling. I look at it completely different. His floor game has been great.
“I think it’s one of those deals that if you feel that way, you get yourself in the gym and work your way out of it and that’s what I told him, ‘You’ve got to get to where you feel comfortable again.’ Whether that’s massaging the ball, shooting the ball, whatever it is that helps you.
“My belief and my feeling for Trent hasn’t wavered a bit. I look at it a little bit different, but yeah, we’ve had conversations and he’s been getting a lot of shots up."
Frazier's struggles, specifically, reference his 3-point shooting. He's hit only hit 3 of his last 18 attempts from 3-point land and admitted that after missing a couple shots from behind the arc, he doubts his ability. He hit two triples against Indiana, including a deep 3-pointer late in the second half.
Once he sees it fall, it's a booster.
“I just need one to go in," Frazier said. "I kind of put my head down a little bit or get in my own head and I see 0-for-2 and that ball not going in there. … I just need one to go in and I’m very confident that first one will go in tomorrow and I’m very excited for this challenge."
Despite Frazier's recent struggles, freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu has filled in seamlessly. Dosunmu has scored at least 18 points in each of the last three games, including a team-high 20 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. He also shot, and made, the game-tying 3-pointer in regulation before losing in overtime to Florida Atlantic.
“He’s stepped up a lot," Frazier said. "It’s incredible the things he’s doing. He’s scoring the ball phenomenally right now. He has so much confidence to have the ball in his hands at times in the game when I’m struggling or not in the game to take over. I think that’s the mindset he’s got to continue to have. Once me and him start rolling like that and we play unbelievable at the same time, I don’t think any team is going to be able to beat us."
Michigan is the second top-five team the Illini will have encountered this season, dropping a nail-biter to then-No. 3 Gonzaga in Maui. The Wolverines (15-0, 4-0) are one of two undefeated teams in the country and are led by freshman Ignas Brazdeikis' 16 points per game. Chicago-native Charles Matthews (14.2) and Jordan Poole (14.1) are each averaging double figures in scoring. Underwood calls Zavier Simpson (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) the team's MVP.
Though Michigan and Gonzaga play differently, hanging with the Zags was a confidence booster.
“We’re still walking with our head high knowing we can compete. Early in the season we hung with Gonzaga and gave them a run," Illinois big man Adonis De La Rosa said. "I feel like we fell a little bit away from that and we forgot who we were. We’re actually getting back to that now."