Tue, 09 Aug 2022

Behind Kofi Cockburn, No. 14 Illinois rallies for win over UTRGV

Field Level Media
27 Nov 2021, 13:40 GMT+10

Junior Kofi Cockburn poured in a career-high 38 points Friday night as No. 14 Illinois avoided a major upset at the hands of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, pulling out a 94-85 win in Champaign, Ill.

Cockburn, whose previous career best was 33 points last December against Minnesota, canned 15 of 19 field-goal attempts and 8 of 11 free throws. He added 10 rebounds for his second double-double in a row for Illinois (4-2).

Alfonso Plummer gunned in 30 points in support of Cockburn, converting 6 of 11 3-point attempts and all eight of his foul shots. Plummer hit seven 3-pointers Tuesday night in a win over Kansas State at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo.

The Illini needed all those points from their inside-outside combo against the Vaqueros (3-4), who led for nearly half the game and were ahead with less than six minutes left. It was still 88-85 Illinois with 1:02 left, but Cockburn and Plummer each made foul shots to seal the outcome.

Justin Johnson pumped in 28 points for UTRGV, going 11 of 14 at the foul line. Marek Nelson scored 23 before fouling out in the last minute, and Ricky Nelson hit for 15 points.

The pregame storyline concerned continuing health problems in the Illinois backcourt. Starters Andre Curbelo (concussion symptoms) and Trent Frazier (leg) both sat out the game, leaving the team without a true point guard.

And UTRGV definitely took it to the Illini. Even with Cockburn and Plummer enjoying huge games, the Vaqueros stayed with them bucket for bucket through a back-and-forth first half. Nelson's transition jumper gave them a 20-10 lead less than seven minutes into the game, capping an 11-0 burst.

Illinois predictably made a run. Cockburn's layup with 2:23 left in the half gave the Illini a 33-32 lead, erasing a 24-12 deficit. And the Illini went into intermission with a lead when RJ Melendez canned a jumper as time expired, making it 39-37.

--Field Level Media

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