COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WCIA) — It is unknown how long Kofi Cockburn will be out, still in concussion protocol after getting hurt in practice on Sunday, then feeling the effects of the injury after the Purdue game Monday. The one thing the Illini do know is they miss their 7-foot National Player of the Year candidate and All-American. Cockburn didn’t travel with the team to Maryland, staying in Champaign and watching his team lose 81-65 to the Terrapins Friday night.
Despite Cockburn’s absence, the Illini (13-5, 6-2 B1G) say they’re still confident they can win games without the junior center, but head coach Brad Underwood conceded after the game changes might be in the air if the injury sidelines Cockburn for more than a game or two. Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk got the start in place of Cockburn but he only scored six points. Cockburn’s other back-up at center, Florida transfer Omar Payne, only played 13 minutes, scoring four points. Combined that’s only 10 points from the five position, to go along with just two rebounds.
“You know we might have to make a tweak depending on how long Kofi’s out and what that status looks like,” Underwood said. “You set a defense for a certain way and no offense to Ben (Bosmans-Verdonk) and Omar (Payne) but they’re not him.”
“Kofi’s the best player in college,” Illinois senior guard Alfsonso Plummer said. “He always brings a spark in every sense of it. I hope he’s going to be back soon but we’re still a deep team and I feel like without him we can find a way to win games.”
Illinois returns to the court Tuesday night hosting Michigan State at 6 p.m. The Spartans moved into solo first place in the Big Ten on Friday night by beating Wisconsin in Madison. Michigan State now has a half game lead over both Illinois and Wisconsin.