EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) – Brad Underwood, the Illinois coach, spoke to his team at halftime and saw exactly what he needed to see.
Kofi Cockburn scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, and Illinois rallied to beat the overwhelmed Wildcats 81-56 on Thursday night.
That was seen in a historic second half. Illinois (9-3, 5-1 Big Ten) beat Northwestern 53-13 after being 15 points behind at break. The Illinois limited the Wildcats to just two field goals and forced nine turnovers in the final 20 minutes of their biggest Northwestern win since a 63-30 blowout on February 19, 2000. According to the STATS, Illinois was the first team to do one has left major conference opponents behind by at least 40 points in one half since Kentucky left Vanderbilt 43 points behind in the second half of a 106-44 win on March 5, 2003. Only the Division I team is at least 15 points behind at halftime for the last 25 seasons and wins by 20 or more points.
« I’ve never been (a part) of anything like this, » said Cockburn . « You saw it, man. You saw how we responded. I was in awe. Just being on the ground watching it happen, being a part of it, was a really good feeling. »
Cockburn left the field 8-9 in his eighth double-double of the season and held his own in the middle after Illinois got off to a difficult start. Ayo Dosunmu added 15 points and Trent Frazier and Adam Miller each scored 14 points.
Illinois followed with up to 16 – it was so ugly that Underwood said « What are we doing? » During a first-half time out. His team was screaming – before he overwhelmed Northwestern (6-4, 3-3) in his fourth round, just winning.
« To only get 13 points and a couple of field goals (in the second half) « We just have to play better, » said coach Chris Collins.
Northwestern finished the first half with a 12-1 run, 43-28 ahead. But the Wildcats saw a top in their fourth game in a row -25 team tired.
After a 3-pointer from Beran had made it 48-41 with 14:19, the Illinois took control with a 25-2 run. Miller finished the decisive stretch with a 3, which took it to 66-50 in 5:36.
We came together, said Cockburn. « We haven’t lowered our heads. We didn’t pout about anything. … We just got out of there and panned back. »
Da’Monte Williams, an Illinois senior, sustained an ankle injury that has been on his mind for about a month, according to Underwood. Williams finished 2v5 with six points in 23 minutes.
I don’t know how hard it is, Underwood said. “After we left the locker room, he said he was feeling fine.” Illinois: The Illinois have their fifth straight win in the series against the Wildcats. Once Cockburn went in it was all over.
Northwest: The wildcats just fell apart in the second half. They shot 33% (18 for 55) for the game.
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