Illinois routs Rutgers in Big Ten opener

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Alfonso Plummer is on a career high heater. The Illinois senior scored 20 or more points in his fourth straight game against Rutgers Friday night, netting 24, in an 86-51 win over the Scarlet Knights.

The Illini (6-2, 1-0) were up 8-7 four and a half minutes in when they opened up a lead they never gave back, scoring 15 out of the next 17 points. Jacob Grandison added 16 points in the win, with Kofi Cockburn scoring 13 to go along with 15 rebounds for his 31st career double-double.

“It’s got a different attitude in the locker room,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about Big Ten games. “It’s got a different attitude in practice, it’s got a different intensity. Now we got 19 more of them.”

“It’s Big Ten now, anybody can beat anybody in this league,” Illinois sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins said. “Just make a point, just make a statement tonight, and show the Big Ten we’re back.”

After years of scoring manically on the Illini, top scorer Ron Harper Jr. was held to just five points being defended mostly by Hawkins. The performance may have been thanks in part to underwood’s encouragement.

“I told him that Ron Harper goes to bed every night and he envisions Coleman in a pink tutu,” Underwood said.

“Coach has been on me for a while now talking about, ‘Harper, Harper, who’re we going to put on him?’ I accepted the match-up and we came out with a win so I’m happy,” Hawkins said.

The Illini needed just 19 points combined from Kofi Cockburn and Trent Frazier but they also combined for almost half of the team assists. Cockburn had possibly his best game as a distributor.

“Pick your poison, he’s a menace in the paint and then we got menaces out along the three point line,” Illinois senior guard Jacob Grandison said. “I feel like it’s a touch scout at the end of the day.”

Illinois shot 48 percent from the field in the win, holding Rutgers to just 30 percent. The Scarlet Knights (4-4, 0-1) got outrebounded 47-33 and only shot four free throws in the game.

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