Welcome to “This Week in Illini Athletics,” a weekly review of the past week of Illini sports and a preview of the week to come.
MEN’S BASKETBALL (11-3 Overall, 4-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: After nearly two weeks off due to COVID-19 cases within the program, Illinois returned to action this week with two impressive Big Ten victories. On Tuesday, the Illini dismantled Minnesota on its own home court, leading the Gophers by double digits for the majority of the game en route to a 76-53 win. Kofi Cockburn scored 29 points in just 24 minutes, adding 10 rebounds and four blocks for good measure. At State Farm Center on Thursday, Illinois struggled with Maryland in the first half after Cockburn got into foul trouble. The Illini big man played all 20 minutes after halftime, however, as he led the orange and blue to a 76-64 comeback victory. Cockburn paced the Illini with an efficient 23 points and 18 rebounds, with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the second half. Illinois moved to 4-0 in the Big Ten with the win and it remains in a tie for first place in the conference.
This Week: Two more Big Ten games are on the docket for Illinois this week. First is a 7:30 p.m. meeting with Nebraska on Tuesday in Lincoln, and then the Illini host Michigan on Friday night at 8.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (6-8 Overall, 1-2 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini split their two games this week, both losing by 21 and winning by 21. At Ohio State on Thursday, Illinois competed hard and even led after the first quarter, but OSU pulled away in the second half and won 90-69. Back at home on Sunday, the Illini won convincingly, never trailing in a 68-47 victory over Wisconsin. Sophomore Aaliyah Nye led the Illini with 21 points on seven threes — tying the Illini single-game record — and added seven rebounds as well.
This Week: Illinois hosts Northwestern at 7 p.m. on Thursday before heading east to take on Penn State on Sunday afternoon at 1.
WRESTLING (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
This Week: #24 Illinois kicks off Big Ten season at #12 Rutgers on Friday night at 6. Then the Illini return to Champaign to host top-ranked Iowa at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING (4-2 Overall, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last Week: Due to rising COVID-19 cases in the Miami area, Illinois pulled out of the FIU Sprint Invitation and Relay Meet.
This Week: On Saturday morning at 11, the Illini host Iowa to begin Big Ten competition.
MEN’S GYMNASTICS (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
This Week: The Illini open up their season on Saturday night at 7 at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago.
WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (1-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: In its season opener, Illinois narrowly edged Central Michigan 194.150-193.425 on Sunday. The Illini took home two of the four event titles, with seniors Rachel Borden and Mallory Mizuki winning parallel bars and balance beam, respectively, each with scores of 9.825.
This Week: Illinois’ first tri meet of the season is on Sunday, as the Illini travel to Kent, Ohio to take on Kent State and Northern Illinois at noon.
WOMEN’S TENNIS (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
This Week: Illinois begins its spring season at the Bella the Ball Collegiate Invitational in Las Vegas from Saturday to Monday.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
This Week: The Illini track and field teams begin their indoor seasons at the Wisconsin Midwest Invitational in Chicago on Saturday.