This one was all it was hyped up to be.
After leading for the first 25 minutes, the Illini fell behind the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and never led again. No. 19 Rutgers knocked off No. 13 Illinois, 91-88, on Sunday afternoon at the RAC in Piscataway, N.J.
It was clear that this game was going to be a track meet from the get-go. Illinois quickly jumped out to a 10-2 advantage and never surrendered the lead the rest of the period. The Illini made it a point of emphasis to get the halfcourt offense flowing through Kofi Cockburn, who notched 8 points and 8 rebounds in the first half. It was a fairly balanced offensive attack with six guys recording at least four points heading into the break.
Defensively, the Illini did a solid job holding Rutgers’ stars Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker in check in the first frame. The pair combined for just 8 first-half points. It was the other backcourt duo, Jacob Young and Montez Mathis, that did the majority of the damage for the Scarlet Knights, each scoring at least 10 points in the first period. The Illini led 41-37 heading into the half.
Rutgers took its first lead of the game, 49-47, off a deep three from Harper Jr. (22 second-half points) with just under 15 minutes to go and never looked back. There wasn’t much offensive rhythm for either team to start the second half — the Illini scored 12 points in the opening 10 minutes of the second stanza — but that didn’t last long.
Then came a couple of momentum-shifting foul calls that all but put Illinois away. A suspect Flagrant 1 whistle against Da’Monte Williams resulted in a 6-point swing in Rutgers’ favor. Andre Curbelo, one of the only Illini to get anything going in the halfcourt, was sidelined with his fifth foul with over five minutes to play. Illinois fell behind by as much as 10, but never cut it to a one-possession ballgame as Rutgers escaped with a 91-88 victory.
- Kofi Cockburn: 17 points, 12 rebounds
- Ayo Dosunmu: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists
- Trent Frazier: 19 points, 5 assists
- Da’Monte Williams: 15 points, 5-5 3FG
- Ron Harper Jr.: 28 points, 9 rebounds
- Jacob Young: 24 points, 7-8 FT
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
This was with almost 16 minutes left in the game by the way.
Kofi has his fifth double-double in eight games this season.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) December 20, 2020
TWEET OF THE GAME
I’ve asked but they wanna spread the greatness https://t.co/1eOO3QCuVJ— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) December 20, 2020
The Illini hit the road again for the fifth of their last six games away from home. This time they travel to State College to face off against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday. You can catch the game on BTN.