CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Kofi Cockburn’s career night and fourth double-double of the season led No. 13 Illinois to a dominant 92-65 win over Minnesota Tuesday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The sophomore center scored a game high 33 points (12-of-15 from the field) and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“He’s the big in the country, I believe,” Illinois senior guard Trent Frazier said. “We preached a lot about it after the Missouri game, going into Big Ten play, how important it is, every night is going to be a battle.”
Cockburn’s 16th career double-double included several highlight reel dunks, as the Gophers lost for the first time this season. Illini freshmen Adam Miller (14 points) and Andre Curbelo (9 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) helped pace Illinois, who bounced back following Saturday’s loss to Missouri in the annual Braggin’ Rights game.
“Tonight was big for us, we came out, we’re a really talented team, we know how good we are and to come out and make a statement like that it’s big time for us, because that’s what teams expect from us every night,” Cockburn said.
“Kofi’s got unbelievable pride and we had one word and if anybody heard it tonight, everyone was saying it tonight it’s ‘motor’ so that he goes all the time,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “And it’s amazing what happens when you really play hard, and the game just kind of finds you, and the game found him tonight.”
Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu scored 10 points a piece, combining to grab 10 rebounds and seven assists. It was more about defense for Frazier though, who matched up with Minnesota’s best player, Marcus Carr, limiting his to just 3-of-13 from the field.
Illinois won its conference opener for the first time since the 2013-14 season. The Illini return to the court on Sunday visiting 19th-ranked Rutgers.