No game in the Big Ten is a gimme, which is why each conference victory is so important. Sometimes, those wins are prettier than others. This wasn’t one of those wins.
The Illini (7-3, 3-1 Big Ten) did just enough to grind out a 69-60 triumph over the visiting Indiana Hoosiers (5-4, 0-2 Big Ten) on Saturday at State Farm Center in Champaign.
For the second straight game, a cold start (0-6 FGs) and a slew of turnovers (6) plagued Illinois in the first half. The offense didn't get going until Curbelo touched the floor — alongside Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Jacob Grandison. He was one of just three Illini with a positive +/- at +7 in the first half, despite the offense turning it over six times.
Ayo Dosunmu led the way for Illinois in the opening period, pacing the offense with 10 points. Illinois finally took the lead under four minutes left in the half, and a late-half 8-0 run helped Illinois carry a two-point lead into the break.
For the second straight contest, Dosunmu’s second-half performance (20 points) is what put away the ballgame. At one point, the preseason all-American scored 13-of-16 for Illinois.
It was another sluggish start out of the half for the Illini with just eight points in the first eight minutes of the second. They struggled to connect from three, an area where Illinois ranks among the highest in the country.
A second-half key was getting Kofi Cockburn going. Especially since Illinois was just 2-of-15 from beyond the three-point line about halfway through the second half. Cockburn scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half and added 15 rebounds to secure his sixth double-double of the season.
A 14-0 run from Illinois with just over seven minutes to go put just enough room between the Illini and Hoosiers to close this one for good, 69-60.
- Ayo Dosunmu: 30 points, 5 assists
- Kofi Cockburn: 15 points, 15 rebounds
- Da’Monte Williams: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2-3 3FG — shooting the three at a 70% clip, ranking 4th in the NCAA.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
TWEET OF THE GAME
Indiana on a 4 minute, 15 second scoring drought. pic.twitter.com/GpSuaTstRt— Brandon Simberg (@BrandonSimberg) December 26, 2020
The season continues for Illinois in 2021. The Illini will open the New Year hosting Purdue on Saturday at State Farm Center at 5 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.