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No. 13 Illinois opens Big Ten play routing Minnesota, 92-65

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A career night for the big fella!

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Brad Underwood’s Illini; vs. No. 2 Baylor, at No. 10 Duke, at (now) No. 16 Missouri. But all of that was to prepare a promising squad for the Big Ten and beyond.

Thanks to a career-high night from Kofi Cockburn (33 points, 13 rebounds), Illinois (5-2, 1-0) got back in the win column on Tuesday evening at the State Farm Center with a 92-65 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1, 0-1).

Minnesota big man Liam Robbins got things going early for the Golden Gophers, knocking down two triples from the top of the key and presenting a mismatch against Cockburn. They got out to a 18-10 lead, and it looked like the Illini might be in trouble. But Robbins was quickly sidelined after he picked up his second foul, and it was all Illinois from there. Cockburn’s 16 first-half points helped the Illini rip off a 22-3 run and take a 32-21 lead.

Their stifling defense held the Gophers to just 23% shooting through the first frame and just two points in the paint compared to the Illini’s 23. They would take a 40-29 lead into the break.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The Illini went right back to their bread and butter in the second half: feeding Kofi. The 7-footer pitched in 17 more second-half points to bring his total to 33 on the night, and the Gophers never found an answer on offense or defense. Only one Minnesota player scored more than five points in the second half as Illinois easily cruised to its first Big Ten win, 92-65.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Kofi Cockburn: 33 points, 13 rebounds, 12-15 FG
  • Ayo Dosunmu: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
  • A stat line like no other — Da’Monte Williams: 2 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal

SOUND SMART

TWEET OF THE GAME

WHO’S NEXT

Next up on the schedule is No. 19 Rutgers (5-0, 1-0), who picked up its first Big Ten win over Maryland on Monday.

The Illini will travel to Piscataway to take on the Scarlet Knights on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT.