CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Not that many people were there to witness it, only 6,579 fans came through the turnstiles at the State Farm Center Wednesday night, but they were treated to one of the most complete performances and possibly the best win of the season for Illini basketball.
Junior Kofi Cockburn led the way with 37 points and notched his 40th career double-double. It is the second Top 15 win for the Illini in as many weeks and the fourth straight victory over Wisconsin.
“This game means a lot to me because there was emphasis on this game,” says Cockburn. “We were both tied for first place, that team is a really good team. They’re projected to be a number one seed in the tournament.”
“I think most nights we fight really, really, really, really hard,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “And I think they care enough about each other to do that. There’s a lot of really talented teams, there’s a lot of basketball left.”
The game had been almost sold out, but bad weather kept most fans away from the arena. Expectations for the crowd were low, but fans in the Orange Krush were already getting lined up almost four hours before the game. The stadium was not full, but still made a big impact on the game.
“I had an unbelievable smile on my face, and I get here two hours before, and I see everybody standing outside,” says Underwood. “And there may have been 30 packs packed in the snow and everybody’s having a good time staying warm. This is what makes this place so special.”
Illinois takes sole possession of first place with the win. Now they have a big swing in the State of Indiana, playing the Hoosiers on Saturday before a big rematch with Purdue on Tuesday.