Jeremiah Davenport canned four 3-pointers Monday night and scored 19 points as Cincinnati overcame an early 15-point deficit to pound No. 14 Illinois 71-51 in the Hall of Fame Classic semifinals in Kansas City, Mo.
Mike Saunders added a game-high 20 on just six shots for the Bearcats (5-0), going 9 of 10 at the foul line. Cincinnati advanced to Tuesday night's finals against either No. 13 Arkansas or Kansas State with its most impressive win under first-year coach Wes Miller.
Kofi Cockburn scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his first game of the season for the Fighting Illini (2-2). Cockburn was suspended by the NCAA for the first three games because he sold memorabilia a month before Illinois politicians approved name, image and likeness licensing for college athletes.
Andre Curbelo added 12 points for the Illini but also coughed up five of their 14 turnovers. Illinois also went ice-cold from the field, finishing the night at just 28.1 percent from the field, including a dreadful 3 of 22 on 3-pointers. It missed 18 straight from distance at one point.
The outcome didn't seem possible just 8:04 into the game. Cockburn came back determined to make up for lost time, scoring 13 points to guide the Illini to a 23-8 lead and force a timeout by Miller.
Then the game suddenly did a 180. Illinois didn't score another field goal for nearly seven minutes while Cincinnati ripped off a 14-1 run to get back into the game. In fact, the Bearcats took their first lead at the 2:04 mark when Viktor Lakhin dunked for a 30-29 edge.
Ahead 34-31 at halftime, Cincinnati pushed the lead into double figures for the first time when Davenport drained a 3-pointer with 16:57 remaining for a 46-35 advantage. Illinois went 5:59 without a point in one stretch as the Bearcats gradually pulled away.
Illini coach Brad Underwood began emptying the bench with nearly seven minutes remaining when Cincinnati upped the lead to 61-38.
--Field Level Media