A minute and a half? What a tease.
That’s how long Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbelo were on the court together Monday in a double-overtime loss against Purdue. It’s also how long they’ve been on the court together since Nov. 23, when point guard Curbelo played his last game before being shut down for eight weeks with a concussion.
And now Cockburn, the best center in college basketball — and the only player in the country averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds — is out with a concussion of his own. And for how long? The Illini can’t possibly know the answer while putting their first-place Big Ten record on the line Friday night at Maryland.
Cockburn may have been hurt during a weekend practice leading into the Purdue game. He then took at least one elbow to the head from Boilermakers 7-4 center Zach Edey. Cockburn spent much of the game — and the bulk of the second half — on the bench in foul trouble.
Just when the anticipation and excitement were back for Cockburn power dunks off Curbelo lobs and no-look feeds, it’s back in no-go mode for the one-two punch that was supposed to help the Illini move on — and maybe be even better — post-Ayo Dosunmu.
Speaking of whom, don’t forget that Dosunmu missed three games last season with a concussion and facial injuries. As trends go, this whole Noggin U. deal stinks.
On to the rest of the Big 10 (where 10 actually means 10):
2. Curb’s enthusiasm: What does it mean to Curbelo to be back to basketball?
“Crying on the inside,” he said. “Just happy tears.”
“Definitely one of the toughest times of my life,” he said.
There were daily headaches combined with “frustration” he struggled to shake off. There’s still concern that Curbelo’s bout might not be entirely behind him. Concussions can be sneaky and cruel.
If only he can stay healthy. If only Cockburn can get back in there soon. If only the Illini can get their mojo working and flip that sky’s-the-limit switch.
“Because I think we’re that team,” Curbelo. “I know it for a fact.”
3. Hoosier daddies? The social-media reaction to Indiana’s 68-65 win against No. 4 Purdue on Thursday was all about Hoosiers fans storming the court at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Many Hoosiers fans themselves were embarrassed by the display. Was it small-time? Sad? Desperate?
“Act like you’ve been there before,” some posted.
Hate to remind them, but Indiana’s previous home win against Purdue was six seasons ago. It was the Hoosiers’ only “W” in a 13-game stretch against their bitter rivals. So, no, these players haven’t been there before. Coach Mike Woodson hadn’t been there since 1980, when his IU team beat Purdue in Bloomington only to see the Boilermakers get revenge in the Sweet 16, ending Woodson’s college career.
The students who rushed the floor sure as heck hadn’t been there before. And they might not get there again.
4. Be nice, kids: No problem here with students celebrating a big win. But it’s only a matter of time before a fan gets to the floor too quickly, too aggressively, says the wrong thing to a player from an opposing school and, ugh. It’s surprising something ugly doesn’t unfold more often.
Considering how awful fans can be to their own players after a bad loss — take Ohio State’s wonderful star E.J. Liddell and the horrible messages he received after last season’s NCAA Tournament loss to Oral Roberts — it’s naive to think visiting players aren’t subjected to negative comments from giddy home fans after an upset. The expectation should be for schools to ensure visiting teams can safely leave the court before students are allowed to go wild on it.
5. That’s wild, ’Cats: Northwestern is 2-5 in the Big Ten. In other news, Northwestern has made more field goals than its opponent in every league game this season. Wait, what? Odd as all get-out, but true.
6. Eureka! OK, we’ve figured it out: Wildcats opponents are attempting 10.3 more free throws — and making 9.2 more of them — in league games. Seems like a problem.
7. Good stuff, but why wait? The analytics service JG Trends put out a graphic this week measuring all major-college teams’ second-half offensive efficiency against their first-half offensive efficiency.
Guess which team makes the biggest improvement after the break? That would be — pausing here for dramatic effect — the Loyola Ramblers.
And right behind them? Illinois.
8. Kings of the castle: Loyola hosts Missouri State on Saturday and will try to make it 24 Missouri Valley home wins in a row and 38 wins in 40 tries in league play since the start of the 2017-18 season.
Does anybody out there still need to wake up to how good the Ramblers are?
9. Film study: Ex-Loyola coach Porter Moser will pop in and out of town on Feb. 10 for the premiere of “The Loyola Project” documentary, which chronicles the racial barriers that confronted the 1963 Ramblers en route to the national title.
Even nicer, Moser is hosting a red-carpet event at his new school, Oklahoma, on Feb. 17 to show the Loyola doc to all Sooners student-athletes.
10. Creighton, barrel: We know DePaul has been at the bottom of the Big East barrel for a while, but it would be hard to pinpoint anything worse than the Blue Demons’ 14-game losing streak against the Bluejays. The teams play Saturday in Omaha.