CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It’s a game IllinI Nation has been looking forward to since the schedule was released several months ago, Illinois and Michigan on a Friday night in front of a sold out State Farm Center crowd. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood is hoping the fans will be well hydrated to cheer on their favorite team.
“Just have fun, show up and have fun,” Underwood said on Thursday. “It’s going to be an elite college basketball game between elite programs with rich histories and they got really good players in the game. If people can’t come enjoy that and have fun and cheer like hell for their home team, that’s what makes this sport special and these games special and Illinois basketball special. If they happen to go out for an early, early dinner and it happens to include Happy Hour.”
The game will likely be won and lost in the frontcourt, with two of the Big Ten’s best players matching up in Illini center Kofi Cockburn and Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson. The 7-foot-2 Wolverines center was held to just one made field goal in his lone game against the Illini last season, a 23-point win for Illinois in Ann Arbor. Cockburn had 12 points and 7 rebounds in that game, leaving him with bragging rights heading into Friday night. Dickinson has improved his game this season as a sophomore, averaging 16 points per game, while Cockburn is Top 5 in the country going for 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per outing.
“I think it’s going to send a message to all the people who try to put them in the same two category, I think Kofi’s a much more dominant player,” Illinois sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins said. “I think better defender, better feet, but I think it’s going to be a huge match-up but at the end of the game I think people will understand Kofi’s probably the most dominant college basketball player.”
Illinois and Michigan tip at 8 p.m. on FS1.