CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — After taking a 16-point lead midway through the second half, the Illini needed a blocked shot from Kofi Cockburn to seal a 78-76 win over Iowa on Sunday to close the regular season.
In his final game at State Farm Center, Kipper Nichols left it all out on the court. The Illini senior played his best game of the season in his last one in Champaign, scoring ten points, making all three of his shots. After an up and down career, he leaves taking the Illini to the tournament for the first time in seven years.
“It feels amazing, it feels amazing and to do it with these guys here, there’s no better feeling than that,” Nichols said. “These guys found me for a couple shots and the ball went it in that’s how it goes.”
Fellow senior Andres Feliz continues to be the glue that holds the Illini together. He had 14 and left the court with a huge roar from the Orange Krush.
“It was a great game and I was trying to help my team win,” Feliz said. “I couldn’t play in the first half because of foul trouble but my mentality was to come back in the second half and do everything I can to help my team win.”
And then there’s Ayo Dosunmu. This was all but the last home game for the sophomore superstar who will likely turn pro after this season. He made his last case for First Team All Big Ten, slicing his way thru the Hawkeyes defense, scoring 17 points and dishing eight assists.
“Simple as that, they want to take us out, we want to take them out,” Dosunmu said. “We have a respect factor, both teams know that you’ve got to come out and play. You can’t just come out and things will be sweet, but besides that, when we’re on the court, there’s no love.”
Now it’s on to Indy, where the Illini will be the four seed. It’s the highest spot for the program since 2009, and if the seeds hold, we’ll see another game against Iowa, the Hawkeyes are the five seed.