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Cincinnati spoils Cockburn’s return by blowing out Illinois

The Illini led this game 23-8 before it all went wrong.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois vs Cincinnati Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For eight minutes and four seconds, the Illini looked unstoppable. Kofi Cockburn had just scored his fifth basket and the Illini led 23-8 at the first half’s second media timeout.

It was all down hill from there. Cincinnati (5-0) rallied from 15 down and stymied the Illini (2-2), winning 71-51 on Monday night in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

After serving a three game suspension, Kofi Cockburn returned to the Illini lineup. The junior was involved early, scoring the first six points of the game for Illinois and bringing an offensive presence inside that the Illini have lacked.

After struggling against Marquette a week ago, Andre Curbelo came out of the gate making plays as well. The sophomore guard poured in 8 early points and to go with four assists in the first half.

The Illini were clicking on all cylinders until Cincinnati started blitzing Kofi Cockburn every time he got the ball.

After leading by as many as 15 in the first half, the Bearcats battled to narrow the Illini lead to just one. A 14-1 run from the Cincinnati spanned almost six minutes. The Illini started the game 9-of-16 from the field, and went 1-of-13 during the Bearcat run.

The Bearcats took their first lead of the game with under two minutes to go in the first half. The Illini took the lead back with a nice Curbelo bucket, but that was quickly erased when the guard was called for a technical foul.

The Illini finished the half on a quiet note, heading into the locker room down three at half. But the sloppy offensive play continued into the second half for Illinois. The Bearcats opened the half on a 22-5 run, placing the Illini down by 20-points after a deep Jeremiah Davenport three swished in at the shot clock buzzer with just over nine minutes to play in the game.

Turnovers plagued the Illini once again. After turning the ball over 26 times in last Monday’s loss to Marquette, they coughed it up 14 times against Cincinnati.


Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 18 points, 7 rebounds

Andre Curbelo (ILL): 12 points, 5 assists

Jeremiah Davenport (CIN): 19 points, 7 rebounds

Mike Saunders Jr. (CIN): 20 points, 4 rebounds


  • At one point in this game, the Illini had missed 18 consecutive three pointers. A streak snapped by an Alfonso Plummer trey late in the second half.
  • Da’Monte Williams notched double-digit rebounds for the second consecutive game, with 10 boards against the Bearcats Monday.
  • Austin Hutcherson made his Illini debut Monday, after missing the second exhibition game and the Illini’s first three regular season games. Hutcherson gave Illinois five points and two rebounds in 10 minutes of action.


Look who it is!


Look at the way the win probability changed throughout the game.



The Illini will take on the loser of the Akransas/Kansas State game tomorrow at 6 p.m. on ESPN. This will be the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.