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No. 11 Illinois cruises to 39-point win over Arkansas State

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The Illini win their second straight without Kofi Cockburn.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Champaign, Ill. — The No. 11 team in the country did what the No. 11 team in the country should do.

The Illini (2-0) defended their home-court against a non-conference opponent Friday night, throttling Arkansas State (1-1) 92-53 at State Farm Center.

“One of the things I was really impressed with tonight was our effort,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “We want that to be a recurring theme: our defense and our effort.”

The Illini were not as shorthanded as they were in their season opening win, as guards Andre Curbelo (concussion protocol) and Trent Frazier (right shoulder) made their season debuts Friday night.

“I love having them out there,” Coleman Hawkins said. “Belo (Andre Curbelo) does his thing on offense and Trent [Frazier] does his thing on defense.”

Austin Hutcherson (tailbone bruise) and Kofi Cockburn (suspension) were forced to sit out their second straight game, with Cockburn suspended through Monday’s game against Marquette.

Fouls were a storyline in the first half for Arkansas State, as they were in the bonus with roughly 15 minutes to play in the period — giving the Illini free throws after every foul for the rest of the half.

For the Illini, it was the sophomores leading the way. Curbelo made his presence immediately felt, assisting on the first two baskets of the game — both dunks to fire up the State Farm Center crowd. Aside from that, the Illini got off to a slow start, scoring just seven points before the first media timeout.

After a pair of technical fouls issued to Curbelo (for jawing with Arkansas State coach Mike Balado) and Underwood (for defending Curbelo) cut the Illini lead to just six, it was sophomore Coleman Hawkins who sparked the Illini to a nice run. The sophomore had a rebound, a bucket, took a charge, assisted on a three and had a block in just three trips down the floor.

“I just get juiced up and I think it’s contagious for the whole team,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins finished with a superb stat-line — 17 points and 12 boards — good for his first career double-double. He also added four assists, four blocks and a steal. Illinois closed out the first half on an 18-2 run, and went into the locker room with a 22-point lead.

“We can’t forget that he’s still developing into a really good college player,” Underwood said. “When (Hawkins) plays like that, he’s a heck of a player.”

“I said all summer I think he’s ready to take the next step,” he said. “I think we’re seeing that.”

The Illini continued that dominance in the second half, controlling all aspects of the game. Illinois held massive edges on the glass and in the turnover department, leading to a 39-point victory. The Illini had more rebounds (56) than Arkansas State had points (53).

“We know to win a National Championship we have to guard,” Curbelo said.

SOUND SMART

  • Coleman Hawkins set a career high in points (17) and rebounds (12) and tallied his first career double-double in an Illini uniform.
  • Trent Frazier is 4th all-time in three-pointers in Illini history. His two threes Friday night give him 249 in his Illini career, 29 short of DJ Richardson’s 278 for third place all-time.
  • Jacob Grandison scored in double-figures for the Illini just four times last year — he has done it both games of the season thus far for Illinois.
  • Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk notched 10 rebounds for the second consecutive game, the first two times in his Illini career. He also tallied a career-high eight points.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Coleman Hawkins: 17 points, 12 rebounds
  • Jacob Grandison: 15 points, 6 rebounds
  • Andre Curbelo: 8 points, 7 assists
  • Marquis Eaton (Arkansas State): 15 points

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Good to see Trent Frazier back on the floor.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

First bucket of the game!

TWEET OF THE GAME

Curbelo was having some fun with Arkansas State’s coaching staff.

HE SAID IT

“Instead of talking trash, I made a layup and just blew them a little kiss,” Andre Curbelo said about his exchange with the Arkansas State bench.

UP NEXT

The Illini travel to Milwaukee on Monday to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CT on FS1.