By Joseph G. Phillips, Crusader Sports Editor
After falling behind 15 points in the first half, the Illinois Fighting Illini stormed back to earn an 81-56 victory over their BIG TEN rivals Northwestern University on Thursday, January 7, on the road.
The 12th ranked Illini held the Wildcats to 13 second-half points on 2-of-24 shooting.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Brad Underwood, head coach of the Fighting Illini via The News-Gazette. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like that game. I will say this. To come out in the second half and hold a team to 8 percent and two field goals, I’ve not been a part of that. You just don’t do that to a Chris Collins team offensively because they’re as good offensively as any team in the country being able to score the ball at five spots.”
In the first half, the Fighting Illini struggled offensively after falling behind by the scores of 17-15, 28-24, and 43-28. The Wildcats used a 19-0 run to close out the half.
In the second half, the Fighting Illini forced nine turnovers against the Wildcats offense. This happened after the Wildcats surrendered only four turnovers in the first half. The Fighting Illini outscored the Wildcats 53-13 in the second half.
“I thought we had some really sloppy turnovers we didn’t have in the first half,” said Chris Collins, head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats via The News-Gazette. “We had four turn- overs in the first half, and we were really moving the ball and finding the open guys. We were either turning the ball over or attacking in transition when they had the numbers. I thought we were a little impatient.”
In addition to a great defensive game plan by the Fighting Illini, sophomore center Kofi Cockburn needed a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds to close out the game for Illinois.
Final Score: Illinois 81, Northwestern 56.
With the victory, the Fighting Illini improved to 9-3 on the season. Following their win at Northwestern, the Fighting Illini fell to the University of Maryland 66-63 at home on Sunday, January 10. The loss was the Fighting Illini’s fourth of the season.
They are now 9-4 on the season.
Chicago Crusader Players of The Game:
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois, finished with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Fighting Illini outscored the Wildcats 53-13 in the second half.