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Illinois returns from COVID pause with blowout win at Minnesota

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The Illini remain perfect in conference play.

@IlliniMBB

The Illini were fresh off a COVID pause, but it didn’t seem to bother Brad Underwood’s team a bit.

After not playing for 13 days, Illinois turned it on from the opening tip in a 76-53 win over Minnesota at Williams Arena on Tuesday night.

The Illini last suited up against Missouri for the Braggin’ Rights game on Dec. 22, a game they won by 25. They were scheduled to host Florida A&M on Dec. 29, but that game was canceled because of Illinois’ COVID outbreak.

Against the Gophers, Illinois (10-3, 3-0 Big Ten) came storming out of the gates to the tune of 65% from the field and nailing four of its first six three-point attempts. The offense started to stall in the closing minutes of the first half, however, the turnovers started to pile up. What was once a 16-point lead trinkled to 11 heading into the break.

The Illini opened the second stanza with a 9-0 run to push the lead to 20, the largest to that point.

Offensively, Illinois was led by Kofi Cockburn, who has a history of destroying Minnesota (10-2, 1-2 Big Ten). In his career he has averaged more than 22 points per game against the Gophers — he topped that number on Tuesday.

The big man had 29 points, and made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Not only did he punish the rim, he also sent a season-high four Gopher shots into the first row at the Barn. Cockburn also poured in 10 rebounds, good for his eighth double-double of the season, and sixth in a row.

Jacob Grandison and Alfonso Plummer joined Cockburn in double-figures, as nine Illini got on the score sheet.

Illinois stretched the lead up to 28 midway through the second period, and cruised to a 23-point win. Three games into Big Ten conference play, the Illini have a perfect record.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Kofi Cockburn (ILL): 29 PTS, 10-19 FG, 9-11 FT, 10 REB, 4 BLK, 2 AST, 2 STL
  • Jacob Grandison (ILL): 11 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST
  • Da’Monte Williams (ILL): 9 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
  • Eric Curry (MINN): 10 PTS, 5 REB

SOUND SMART

He. Don’t. Miss.

However, this is the first game since Nov. 15 that Alfonso Plummer did not make a three.

TWEET OF THE GAME

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Good luck with that one, Mr. Curry.

WHO’S NEXT

Maryland! It’s Ayo Night!

Illinois will be honoring the former National Player of the Year and current Chicago Bull on Thursday night in Champaign. Dosunmu’s jersey will be raised in the rafters among other Illini legends.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.