CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — For the first time this season, Illinois put together back-to-back halves of basketball and mopped the floor with its opponent in the process.
The Illini made quick work of the Hampton Pirates on Saturday night at State Farm Center in Champaign after mounting a 31-point first-half lead. Illinois would go on to win, 120-71.
“I feel like we came out and played the way we’re supposed to,” said sophomore Ayo Dosunmu. “It’s showing how we’re getting better collectively as a group.”
For Illinois, these contests serve as confidence boosters and a chance for the coaching staff to tie up any loose ends before the start of conference season. And that’s exactly how Brad Underwood’s squad responded against Hampton.
“I felt better after the second half of The Citadel game,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “We were starting to play with some rhythm and understand where our shots are coming from.”
With the win Saturday, the Illini have extended their winning streak to three games with two more home matchups looming before the conference opener on Dec. 7.
You couldn’t have asked for a better start if you’re Underwood. The Illini jumped out on top of the Pirates early and never took their foot off the gas. A 28-7 start featured a pair of Ayo Dosunmu triples and some beautiful transition offense. Kofi Cockburn picked up right where he left off on Wednesday, notching 14 points and eight boards through the first 20 minutes. Alan Griffin added 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from three and four rebounds. The Illini would take a 62-31 lead into the break.
“It’s really nice to have a half where you don’t turn the ball over and have 16 assists,” Underwood said. “Really proud of our guys for that.”
The onslaught continued in the second half with the Illini shooting 69 percent from the floor. Illinois continued to build on its 30-point halftime lead, emptying the bench with over five minutes to go in the game and giving the starters so much needed rest with four games in an eight-day span.
“We’re getting better and better,” Dosunmu said. “That’s all I can say... We’re nowhere near our best so that should be scary for other teams in the country.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
- Clean starts: The Illini didn’t commit a single turnover in the first half, despite averaging over 18.2 per game. That type of disciplined basketball wins ballgames.
- You can’t do that: Hampton was assessed a technical foul for not turning in its second-half starters soon enough.
- Walk-on —> Walk-on: Senior Samson Oladimeji picked up his first points of the season on a alley-oop lob from fellow senior Tyler Underwood.
TWEET OF THE GAME
kofi cockburn is reminiscent of when you're 9 and you play 1-on-1 with your dad— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 24, 2019
- Kofi Cockburn: 20 points, 13 rebounds, 8-10 FG
- Ayo Dosunmu: 20 points, three assists, 9-13 FG
- Andres Feliz: 19 points, five assists, four rebounds
- Alan Griffin: 19 points, six rebounds
- Giorgi Bezhanishvili: 14 points, five rebounds, four assists
Freshmen with double-doubles in five of the first six games since 2010-11— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 24, 2019
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois, 2019-20
Deandre Ayton, Arizona, 2017-18
Brandon McCoy, UNLV, 2017-18
Ben Simmons, LSU, 2015-16
Julius Randle, Kentucky, 2013-14 (all six)
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Illini are back at home again Tuesday night to take on D-II Lindenwood University (3-1) at 7 p.m. CT.