CHAMPAIGN — Two early fouls on Kofi Cockburn put Illinois in considerably unfamiliar territory Tuesday evening in opposition to Northwestern.
Cockburn has managed his foul state of affairs pretty effectively this season. The Illini sophomore heart has principally stayed away from two first half fouls (i.e. the auto bench from coach Brad Underwood).
Not a lot Tuesday evening. Cockburn dedicated his first foul simply 90 seconds into the sport and was headed to the bench for a long-term keep when he dedicated his second on the 11:26 mark within the first half.
But Illinois didn’t lose a step offensively. Giorgi Bezhanishvili crammed that fairly substantial void in addition to he has all season. The junior ahead wound up scoring all 10 of his factors within the first half of the Illini’s 73-66 win
“Giorgi was big,” Underwood stated. “It’s been a very long time since Kofi’s performed in some early foul hassle. I’m not afraid to convey him again with two, however we have been in a fantastic tempo. … Our guys know Giorgi can actually, actually rating it, and we discovered him and acquired him the ball. He had a very, very nice first half.”
Cockburn’s message to Bezhanishvili as they crossed paths when the substitution was made was a easy “decide me up.” Bezhanishvili obliged.
“He informed me he’s acquired me,” Cockburn stated. “He’s tuned into the sport always. No matter state of affairs he’s in, he’s going to verify he’s in tune, he is aware of what he’s doing and is aware of what place he must be in. For him to return in and decide us up like that with 10 factors and play final protection and speak and talk, it’s massive time.”
Cockburn got here on robust within the second half, ending with 17 factors and 10 rebounds. It was his fifteenth double-double of the season — nonetheless one behind Austin Peay’s Terry Taylor — and eleventh straight in Huge Ten motion.
Cockburn’s 17 factors got here on 11 pictures. His whole variety of touches wasn’t all that a lot larger, which was a mixture of his time on the bench, his teammates not at all times discovering him and Northwestern making these probabilities tougher.
“I believed we missed him a number of instances within the zone,” Underwood stated. “Perhaps we acquired a bit of bit tentative when it comes to throwing it in there. Everyone on this planet is attempting to cease him from catching the ball. I believed he did a fantastic job (Tuesday) of chasing it on the glass and getting some alternatives that means.
“We’re attempting to get it in there each likelihood we are able to. You’ve acquired a man capturing near 80 p.c it looks like (really 69 p.c in Huge Ten play and 67.9 p.c total this season), you wish to get him as many opportunists as you possibly can.”
Cockburn has grown accustomed to opposing defenses attempting to restrict what he does within the paint. He additionally is aware of what he can do to make his life simpler.
“I simply should be extra bodily and ensure I demand the ball,” he stated. “Make certain I’m in a great place to get the ball. Whether or not or not they entrance me, I simply depend on my guys to make the fitting performs.”
Bezhanishvili wasn’t the one Illini with a stable first half. Freshman guard Adam Miller knocked down a pair of early three-pointers and had seven factors by halftime. He was a bit much less environment friendly by the tip of the sport, scoring 10 factors on 3 of 11 capturing. 9 of these makes an attempt — and all the makes — got here from past the arc.
“It’s all confidence; that’s what it’s with Adam,” Dosunmu stated. “I attempt to instill confidence for him as a result of I do know it means so much coming from me. I simply attempt to inform him to go on the market and play your recreation.”
Dosunmu’s different piece of recommendation was for Miller to not rush the pictures he will get. There was a little bit of that Tuesday evening in opposition to Northwestern.
“I’m telling him, ‘No have to rush. You’re a fantastic shooter,’” Dosunmu stated. “Any nice shooter you watch, you don’t see them speeding it. After they’re open, they’re taking their time. They’re doing their routine and doing their approach. There’s no have to rush it.”
Illinois’ different first half problem past Cockburn’s early foul hassle was turnovers. As in 10 of them. And too most of the careless selection. That was the outline each Underwood and Illinois juniors guard Ayo Dosunmu used.
“We gave up six factors at half on turnovers that have been decide sixes principally,” Underwood stated. “We simply threw it to them.”
Dosunmu had 5 turnovers Tuesday in opposition to Northwestern. They got here on the heels of 4 final week at Nebraska and 7 the week earlier than that in opposition to Wisconsin.
“I simply suppose we had plenty of careless turnovers,” Dosunmu stated, together with himself in that “we.” “I had 5 turnovers, and I imagine three of them have been unforced. Improper performs on the unsuitable instances turnovers are undoubtedly issues we are able to get fastened. Coach Underwood, he’s been on me already about it. We’ve simply acquired to take the drugs and get higher at it.”
Northwestern’s journey to Champaign was something however typical Monday. Whereas there was some dialogue of an early departure from Evanston to keep away from the more and more poor winter climate and get in a remaining observe at Ubben Basketball Complicated, the Wildcats didn’t depart residence till mid-afternoon.
A seven-hour bus experience later — roughly 5 1/2 hours longer than regular — Northwestern made it to Champaign.
“It’s straightforward to make use of that as an excuse,” Wildcats’ coach Chris Collins stated, then proceeded to not. “It was a later recreation (Tuesday). It wasn’t like we acquired in at 2 within the morning. We have been right here by 11 o’clock, and guys have been in mattress by midnight. For school guys, that’s fairly early. I’ve an 18-year-old myself. Going to mattress at 11-12 is an early evening. We acquired our relaxation.”
Tuesday was Northwestern’s second recreation in opposition to Illinois. The Wildcats have additionally already performed Iowa, Ohio State and Rutgers twice. The rematch with Wisconsin is scheduled for Sunday. A second recreation with Michigan may be rescheduled.
The rematch with Illinois marked Northwestern’s 14th straight recreation in opposition to a crew ranked within the high 40 of KenPom. It was additionally the Wildcats’ Huge Ten-leading twelfth straight loss.
“We’re in a giant boy league,” Collins stated. “I’m not making excuses. I’m simply saying. You play in opposition to nice groups, you’ve acquired to play nice to beat them. For us to proceed to battle, proceed to remain at it, proceed to attempt to discover a means, we’re placing ourselves in place.
“We hold knocking on the door, and we hold developing a bit of quick. That’s irritating for everyone — and that hurts — however I’m pleased with the blokes for sticking with it, and I’m actually assured it’s going to show. You wouldn’t see this type of battle in these guys if it wasn’t going to. Guys are getting higher. We’re going to determine it out.”