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Plummer, Cockburn combine for 68; shorthanded Illini fend off Vaqueros

Thanksgiving hangover? Or do the Illini have more pressing issues?

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Kansas State Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For the second game in a row, it was the Alfonso Plummer and Kofi Cockburn show.

After going for 44 as a pair against Kansas State earlier in the week, the duo combined for 68 on Friday night to help the Illini escape a 94-85 scare against the Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros on at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

Three starting lineup mainstays were ruled out of the contest; Trent Frazier is still recovering from a knee injury sustained on against Kansas State, Jacob Grandison is battling an illness and Andre Curbelo is dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered earlier in the season.

That being said, Illinois rolled out a unique starting lineup of: Alfonso Plummer, Da’Monte Williams, Austin Hutcherson, Coleman Hawkins and Kofi Cockburn.

As has been the trend for the Illini this season, Brad Underwood’s squad came out flat-footed. The absences of three rotation players only magnified that problem. The Illini found themselves doubled up, 24-12, at the under-12 media timeout. Enter, Plummer and Cockburn. The duo led a 27-13 run to close the half and combined for 31 of Illinois’ 39 first-half points.

The Illinois defense struggled to get stops in the second frame with the Vaquero attack finding surprising success amongst the trees. On the other end of the floor, the Illini funneled its offense through its All-American, Kofi Cockburn. He scored nearly half of the Illini’s second-half points, recorded a career-high 38 and almost single-handedly willed the Illini out of an upset.

Both teams were deadlocked at 82 with three minutes to go before the Illini started to pull away. A pair of free throws from Hawkins and a putback from Williams gave the Illini their largest lead since early on in the first half. The Vaqueros would cut it to a possession with a free throw, but got no closer than that as Illinois came out on top, 94-85.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Alfonso Plummer (ILL): 30 points, 6-11 3FG, 8-8 FT
  • Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 38 points, 15-19 FG, 8-11 FT, 10 rebounds
  • Marek Nelson (UTRGV): 23 points, 7 rebounds
  • Justin Johnson (UTRGV): 28 points, 11-14 FT

SOUND SMART

This seems good.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Kofi slams are always a welcome sight for sore eyes.

TWEET OF THE GAME

Oop—

WHO’S NEXT

The Illini welcome the Notre Dame Fighting Irish into town on Monday for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Much like the Illini, the Fighting Irish (3-2) have stumbled out of the gates, dropping games against St. Mary’s and Texas A&M at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.