As part of the mass exodus of Utah Runnin’ Utes last spring after head coach Larry Krystkowiak was fired, guard Alfonso Plummer transferred to Illinois, and on Friday, he came up huge for the Fighting Illini in the NCAA Tournament.
With 12 seconds left and the No. 4 seed Illini down by one and on the verge of being upset by the No. 13 seed Chattanooga Mocs in the South Region, Plummer got fouled and sank both free throws to put Illinois up 54-53.
Those wound up being the game-winning points, as Plummer’s teammate Coleman Hawkins came up with a huge block on the Mocs’ Malachi Smith on the ensuing possession and then Smith missed a follow-up jumper after getting his own offensive rebound, allowing the Illini to escape in a thriller.
In a game many predicted Chattanooga to win, Illinois trailed by 14 in the first half and as many as 11 in the second half before charging back.
Plummer finished the game with 15 points, 13 of which came in the final 12:46 as he got hot like he did numerous times in his years with the Utes.
For this season, Plummer is Illinois’ second-leading scorer behind star big man Kofi Cockburn, averaging 14.8 points per game.
With the win over Chattanooga, Illinois will face the winner of a late game Friday between No. 5 seed Houston and No. 12 seed UAB in the second round of the tournament on Sunday.