Illini Basketball is Truly Back, Ditto for Rivalry with Iowa Hawkeyes

March 8th, 2020 is a date that will be long remembered in Illini basketball history. 2019-20 Senior Night at the State Farm Center saw the #23 Illini defeat the #18 Iowa Hawkeyes in exciting fashion, 78-76. Illinois finishes the regular season 21-10, nearly a complete reversal of 2018-19’s mark of 12-21.

Tonight saw more heroics from the likes of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, key contributions from floor general Trent Frazier and more high-octane level play from Andres Feliz. Just one year ago, Illini basketball was far from a college basketball consensus pick, generated low levels of interest among fans, students and alumni. Last year, the arena often lacked energy. Tonight, led by The Orange Krush who waited hours to get in, the sold out stadium was electric.

[Read more…]

#23 Illinois Fighting Illini vs #18 Iowa Hawkeyes Game Preview

After the Illinois Fighting Illini won convincingly at Northwestern on February 27, head coach Brad Underwood was asked about his team’s fans completely taking over an opposing gymnasium. Overall, the question related to the turnaround of the program, and how the third year coach has brought that which was once down back up again.

“How awesome was that? It makes you smile when you’re a part of it,” Underwood said. “That’s an unbelievable feeling to know how proud our fans are of us. You walk around with your head held high. I’m damn proud to be part of it. I get to live my dream. For fans to come see these guys, we sure as heck don’t take it for granted.”

[Read more…]

Illini Center Kofi Cockburn Developing Faster than Expected (Exclusive Interview)

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn came to Champaign with very lofty expectations as his recruiting rankings were quite high. After a thrilling 67-66 home victory over Indiana, Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood was asked if he expected his book rookie from Kingston, Jamaica to have the kind of stellar season that he’s currently enjoying.

“No,” he responded not once, or but twice, but three times. “I don’t expect many freshmen to do that, I don’t expect that much out of freshmen, but I’ve been blessed in having him and Ayo (Dosunmu, who was a huge contributor as a frosh last season).”

[Read more…]

How Ayo Dosunmu Became a Dominant Closer

ayo dosunmu

The Indiana Hoosiers were unranked and coming off a humiliating defeat at the hands of their greatest rival. Still they refused to go away until one Illinois Fighting Illini made a huge three that would ultimately prove critical to the final result.

You already know who it is- Ayo Dosunmu, the sophomore from Chicago who has been captain clutch for the orange and blue this season. You saw it at Wisconsin, versus Rutgers and Northwestern, at Michigan (probably his finest hour) Minnesota, at Penn State (another classic example) and of course today.

[Read more…]

Illini Basketball Game Preview, Prediction vs Indiana Hoosiers

illini basketball state farm center

Sunday afternoon brings a match-up of two teams that are coming off their in-state rivalry games Thursday night when the Indiana Hoosiers visit the Illinois Fighting Illini. Check out college basketball expert picks to see who may win this matchup. For Indiana, they fell way behind early, clawed back into it at Purdue, but ultimately fell short in a game that was so utterly ugly, well there no true real winners.

Purdue played pretty bad, but IU was just that much worse, and now they have lost seven straight in the Crossroads El Classico rivalry. Illinois won comfortably, but never truly stepped on the throat of Northwestern. Many expected this basketball version of the Land of Lincoln trophy game to be more lopsided than it was, but at the end of the day, the Cats were not a true threat to the Illini.

[Read more…]

Illini Basketball: Who is the Team’s Third Piece?

And for the first time since 2010, Illini basketball will finish with a winning record in conference play. Illinois stomped Northwestern tonight 74-66, in a game in where they displayed a form that was far from their best (but plenty enough). A bonafide league title contender up until a couple weeks ago, they still have a really nice NCAA Tournament profile that resembles a #7 to #8 seed. For where this program has been in recent years, it’s a very welcome development and a nice surprise.

They also have a true big two in Ayo Dosnumu and Kofi Cockburn. The dynamic duo certainly have some NBA Draft stock, and may comprise the league’s best inside-outside combination. Ayo is the closer, and the team’s true alpha dog, but Cockburn isn’t far behind, and he can carry this team for long stretches, just like Dosunmu can. But who is the Illini third piece?

[Read more…]

Illini Basketball Game Preview, Prediction at Northwestern Wildcats

Heading into Thursday’s LOL Hat (basketball version) game, the main story line is tickets, and their egregiously high prices. Northwestern adopted a fan unfriendly pricing structure for single game tickets this season, and the price increase, coupled with the home team’s historically bad performance on the court, has resulted in the worst attendance of the Chris Collins era.

On the other side of the court, you have an Illini basketball team that has far surpassed expectations this season. That is driving up demand, as is the fact that Illinois took a hiatus from playing at the United Center this season. They were right to abandon the UC game this year, because the “crowds” they have been drawing to the venue in recent years were embarrassingly small. So increased demand, lowered supply, it’s economics 101. Plus, you have NU trying to make as much money as they can off the home game most likely to draw the biggest crowd (even if it’s all almost blue and orange).

[Read more…]

Ayo, Kofi Lead Illini Past Surprisingly Competitive Nebraska

The Illini got major production from their big two as they beat Nebraska 71-59 at home in a Big Ten Conference match up Monday night in Champaign, Ill. Ayo Dosunmu scored 18 points, to go along with Kofi Cockburn’s 15 points and 10 rebounds as Illinois won its second straight after having lost four straight.

Alan Griffin came off the bench to score 13 while Andres Feliz and Trent Frazier both added 11 to help the Illini improve their home record to 13-3 and conference mark to 10-6. in Big Ten ranking. The Illini are now a part of a five way tie for second place in the league, and would be the #6 seed, due to tie-breaker consideration, if the Big Ten Tournament started today. Overall, it was a tense, scrappy game that included a lot of fouling.

[Read more…]

Heat Guard, Former Illini Kendrick Nunn is a Remarkable Comeback Story

During NBA All-Star weekend, NBA TV ran an episode of a program called “Open Court,” which consisted of a panel of Chicago basketball legends discussing the greatest individual players to ever come out of the windy city. The panel included Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway, Mark Aguirre, Dwyane Wade and more.

When the conversation turned to current Chicagoans who are representing in the NBA, Kendrick Nunn, who represented the U.S. in the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Game was brought up. Not bad for a guy who was thrown out of the University of Illinois (deservedly so) and went un-drafted (obviously not deserved, as 30 NBA GMs whiffed on that one) in 2018.

[Read more…]

DePaul SG Jalen Coleman-Lands on Past, Present and Basketball Future (Exclusive)

In a tight road loss to Georgetown on February 8, DePaul senior shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands eclipsed the 1,000 point plateau in his college career. Prior to tip-off of the Blue Demons’ blowout loss to #12 Villanova on Wednesday night, Coleman-Lands was honored with a brief ceremony commemorating the achievement.

DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto and Head Coach Dave Leitao took part. “When you achieve a goal like that, you leave an indelible mark on this game that you’ve played for a long, long time,” Leitao said after the game.

[Read more…]

Ayo Dosunmu Injury Could Change Course of Illini Basketball Season

ayo-dosunmu

Last night, in what was essentially a replay of the loss to Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (or the home loss to Maryland two seasons ago), Illinois lost 70-69 to Michigan State. The game result was a gut punch, but what happened in its final moments could completely alter the course of the Illini basketball season.

Ayo Dosunmu suffered a leg injury and had to be carried off the court. Any time you can’t walk on your own volition it’s bad, but as of now we have official confirmation that the extent of the injury is not that bad. Take a look at the video of the non-contact injury from last night just ICYMI:

[Read more…]

Illini Basketball: Finally Bonafide League Title Contenders Again

bruce weber

“For one brief shining moment, there was Camelot” for Illini basketball fans…kind of. From 2002-06, Illinois let the entire nation in wins. From 2001-06, the program finished in the top two in the Big Ten every single season.

Up until this month, this golden era of sorts felt an ancient history, as they haven’t finished higher than fourth since then. The Illini basketball program has actually finished 7th or lower nine times since the halcyon days of Dee Brown, Bruce Weber and company. Recapping that period is relevant now though as Illinois currently sits tied with Michigan State atop the league standings at 8-3.

[Read more…]