CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Michigan State got the best of the Illini in the Spring, the only blemish on what was almost a perfect final 15 games to the 20-21 Illinois season.
Both teams are ready for the rematch, this time in Champaign. Besides revenge, the incentive for Illinois is in looking for avoid three straight losses for the first time since February 2020. That will be no easy task against the No. 10 Spartans. After calling out his team’s slow start in Maryland, Underwood does not believe that will be an issue again.
“That locker room is rock solid,” says Underwood. “Everybody was in the office on an off day watching film or working or getting an extra lift the day after that game. That’s our culture.”
“Playing without Kofi [Cockburn] is a huge difference,” says center Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk. “That definitely played a role. In general that’s something we all have to take ownership in. Everybody’s responsible for making sure we’re all in the right state of mind.”
It is still unknown if the big man will return for the Illini. Cockburn entered concussion protocols last week after taking a shot in practice and having it aggravated against Purdue. Underwood says they have to take it day-by-day and he is not cleared yet. Tom Izzo and Michigan State are hoping he takes one more game before making his return.
“Have you seen him?” says Izzo. “This is a really good case of whether we can block and tackle. We can use football terminology because he’s got to be blocked and probably tackles and everything else. But those guards are all so good and they can score in so many ways. They make shots and then at times when they’re really making shots, they’re really good.”
Illinois and Michigan State tip-off Tuesday at 6 p.m.