Kofi Cockburn returned from a concussion and scored 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 24 Illinois with a 59-56 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
Cockburn was efficient, shooting 10 of 17 shots, but his teammates combined for 12 of 34 shots, leaving the Wildcats hovering despite shooting 20/56 from the field and 6 /18 from a distance of 3 points.
Northwestern took the lead over 3 for the first time ever from Ty Berry with 14:35 to play. The Wildcats tried their way to six points in Elyjah Williams’ three-pointer with 8:09 to play, but Illinois (15-5, 8-2 Big Ten) turned to Cockburn in the tense and he scored 14 points in the second half, going 6/9 from the pitch.
Cockburn ends the game with a short 2:25 bucket to play with. After stopping, he went on to make another layup and miss, but guard Illini Da’Monte Williams’ back strike gave Illinois a 55-53 lead at 1:34.
The Wildcats made just 4 of their last 11 shots, and Illinois took 4/6 shots above the free-throw line to close the game.
No other Illinois player has achieved double that, as Alfonso Plummer passed 2/6 to finish with nine points.
Pete Nance led Northwestern (9-10, 2-8 Big Ten) with 21 points in the 8/15 shoot to go along with five rebounds, while Boo Buie added nine and Berry finished with eight.
The Wildcats struggled offensively, especially in the first half, down 6 out of 26 (23%) off the floor. However, Illini returned the favor, passing 1/8 in the final five minutes of the half to take a 24-19 lead after the break.
Illinois: Illini has now won the last seven encounters with the Wildcats, since an 81-76 win in 2019. Star guard Andre Curbelo missed a second straight game due to protocols COVID-19 safety, but Cockburn’s return gives Illinois a boost ahead of the team’s game against Wisconsin and the road games at Indiana and Purdue. The win places Illinois at the top of the Big Ten leaderboard, with Wisconsin and Michigan State both half a game behind.
Northwestern: Wildcats are trending towards the bottom of the Big Ten after beating their last four games. Northwestern proved it could threaten the league’s leaders with a two-point win at Michigan State on January 15, but it didn’t have enough play through Nance and Buie to win consecutively. . Games with Rutgers and Nebraska in last place next week present an opportunity to gain some momentum.
Illinois: Hosts number 11 Wisconsin on Wednesday.
Northwest: Hosts Rutgers on Tuesday.
https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports/cockburn-returns-leads-no-24-illini-past-northwestern/2742447/ Cockburn Returns, No. 24 Illini Past Northwestern – NBC Chicago