Saturday's Big Ten: Cockburn, Dosunmu lead No. 12 Illinois past No. 19 Wisconsin

Terry Towery
Associated Press

Champaign, Ill. — Kofi Cockburn scored 23 points, Ayo Dosunmu added 21 and No. 12 Illinois beat No. 19 Wisconsin 75-60 on Saturday in a key Big Ten Conference matchup.

Dosunmu also had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for only the third triple-double in school history. Cockburn grabbed 14 rebounds and recorded his eighth double-double in nine games for Illinois (13-5, 9-3).

Wisconsin's guard D'Mitrik Trice (0) battles for ball control with Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu and forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) in the first half.

“Kofi and Ayo both had a great night, as the stats show,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. “They were both so efficient, too.”

D’Mitrik Trice scored 19 points and Nate Reuvers added 11 for Wisconsin (14-6, 8-5).

Illinois outrebounded the Badgers 46-18. The Illini shot 54% (28 of 52) from the field to Wisconsin’s 41% (24 of 58).

“The way we had shot it offensively, we almost had to pitch a perfect game defensively,” Badgers coach Greg Gard said.

Illinois continued to struggle with turnovers, as it has all season, committing 18 to Wisconsin’s 11. But the Badgers had trouble converting the turnovers to points.

Illinois led by as many as 13 points in the first half and controlled both ends of the court. Cockburn had 12 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.

“We got off to a pretty solid start,” Underwood said. “We challenged everything and we had hands in their faces all afternoon. I’m pleased, because (Wisconsin is) as sound and solid as can be. They are a good team.”

Cockburn and Dosunmu were as good as advertised against Wisconsin. Generally, one or the other has a good game in each Illini victory. When they both play well, it’s usually trouble for the opponent.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt (Cockburn) and Ayo by far and away are the two best players on the floor,” Gard said. “That’s not a shock. We thought that coming in that those guys were going to be a handful. And they were.”

Underwood couldn’t say enough about his two star players.

“When we got them, we knew we were getting two young men with great character,” Underwood said. “Both are very, very intelligent and both understand how to make the other one a better player on the court.”

Dosunmu’s triple-double was the first by an Illini player since Sergio McClain had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on Jan. 13, 2001, against Michigan. It was the 11th triple-double in Division I basketball this season.

“It’s really hard to get a triple-double,” Cockburn said. “I asked to come back in the game (with less than two minutes left) just so I could give Ayo his respect.”

Gard agreed. “These two guys are at another level. Ayo is one of the best guards in the country.”

Perhaps the best part of Dosunmu’s feat was that he called it before the game.

“I was shooting around with Trent (Frazier) and told him to watch out because I was going to get a triple-double,” Dosunmu said. “I mean, I was just talking. But, hey, I got it. It’s hard to do at this level. I just give all credit to the Lord.”

Illinois was able to play its customary up-tempo game against a Badgers team known for holding the ball and working the shot clock. It was the ability to run that allowed Illinois to control the game from the opening tip.

Illinois could vault into the top 10 with the win, while Wisconsin will slip a couple of positions but should stay in the Top 25.

Wisconsin plays at Nebraska on Thursday.

Illinois was scheduled to play No. 4 Michigan in a much-anticipated battle for the conference lead on Thursday, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols with the Wolverines. Illinois is not scheduled to play again until it hosts Northwestern on Feb. 16.

More Big Ten

►(At) No. 24 Purdue 75, Northwestern 70: Jaden Ivey scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, providing the energy No. 24 Purdue needed to get past pesky Northwestern 75-70.

Zach Edey had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Boilermakers won for the sixth time in eight games. Purdue (13-7, 8-5 Big Ten) also has won nine straight in the series for the first time since 1994-98.

Boilermakers coach Matt Painter celebrated his 350th career win and victory No. 175 in Big Ten play.

Pete Nance finished with 20 points and Chase Audige had 18 points to lead the Wildcats (6-10, 3-9), who have lost nine straight. And this time, they never even led.

Ivey was the primary reason.

The freshman guard jump-started the Boilermakers after a sluggish start, spurring a 17-6 run that gave Purdue a 33-20 lead late in the first half. But the Wildcats closed the half with four straight 3-pointers and made it 35-34 when Nance opened the second half with a layup.

The Boilermakers retook control when Eric Hunter Jr. capped a 6-0 spurt with a layup that made it 51-42 with 11:56 to play. The Wildcats never got closer than four the rest of the game.

The Wildcats’ 6-1 start is a distant memory. And it looks like there’s no end in sight with this remaining schedule: Indiana at home, at Rutgers and No. 12 Illinois, home against No. 19 Wisconsin and at Minnesota before closing out the regular season at home against Maryland and Nebraska.

Despite losing Tuesday on the road and Saturday’s struggles, the Boilermakers just keep winning. While this one might not look impressive, guard Sasha Stefanovic returned after missing three games following a positive COVID-19 test. Getting the Big Ten’s top 3-point shooter is only going to help.

Purdue set a school record by cracking the poll for a sixth consecutive season last week. A one-point loss at Maryland shouldn’t hurt much and Saturday’s victory won’t help much. The Boilermakers are likely to be in the 20s again this week.