Kofi Cockburn scores 29 in Illinois’ rout of Minnesota

Jacob Grandison added 11 points and Alfonso Plummer had 10 for the Illini (10-3).

SHARE Kofi Cockburn scores 29 in Illinois’ rout of Minnesota
Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) leans into Minnesota forward Eric Curry during the second half of Tuesday’s game in Minneapolis. Illinois won 76-53.

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) leans into Minnesota forward Eric Curry during the second half of Tuesday’s game in Minneapolis. Illinois won 76-53.

Bruce Kluckhohn/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Kofi Cockburn had 29 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high four blocks for his eighth double-double of the season and Illinois dominated Minnesota 76-53 on Tuesday night for its fourth straight win in the series.

Cockburn scored five points in a 9-0 run to open the second half to help build a 50-30 lead, and Illinois led by at least 18 points the rest of the way.

Cockburn, who entered ranked fourth in the nation in scoring at 21.8 points per game and third with 12.1 rebounds, was 10 of 19 from the field despite being double-teamed down low. 

Jacob Grandison added 11 points and Alfonso Plummer, who entered averaging 22.9 points over the last eight games, scored 10 for Illinois (10-3), which has its first 3-0 Big Ten start since the 2010-11 season. The Illini dominated the paint, outscoring Minnesota 42-18 with a 52-26 edge in rebounding. 

Cockburn and Grandison combined for 11 points in a 13-5 game-opening run, and Illinois led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Minnesota got within 35-28 after the Illini turned it over on four straight possessions, but it was 41-30 at halftime with 12 points from Cockburn.

Jamison Battle and sixth-year senior Eric Curry each scored 10 points for Minnesota (10-2, 1-2), which last beat Illinois on Jan. 30, 2019. 

The Illini host Maryland on Thursday. Minnesota plays at Indiana on Sunday.

SCHEDULING ISSUES

The game was pushed back two days because of COVID-19 cases in the Illinois program, and both teams were playing for the first time in 13 days. Illinois had to cancel its game on Dec. 29 against Florida A&M, and Minnesota’s game on Dec. 29 was canceled because of COVID-19 cases in the Alcorn State program.

MATCHUP NIGHTMARE

In three previous games against the Gophers, the 7-foot, 285-pound Cockburn had 68 points and 29 rebounds. His 33-point performance in Illinois on Dec. 15, 2020, is his high for a Big Ten game and the second-highest scoring total of his career. Minnesota had Curry guarding Cockburn for most of the game, giving up three inches and 40 pounds in that matchup.

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