After falling 43-28 Northwest at halftime, Illinois number 12 illuminated the Northwest with an incredibly dominant 53-13 lead in the second half of the second half to achieve an incredibly impressive 81-56 back victory over the Wildcats.
Illinois (9-3, 5-1 Big Ten) had its best start in the Big Ten since 2004-05 and won four consecutive games. Illini also won five in a row against the Northwest at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
The Northwest (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) lost three in a row. The Wildcats shot 16-for-31 in the first half, including a 5-for-13 of three with just four turns. But Illini closed Northwestern in the final 20 minutes as the Wildcats shot just 2-for-24 with nine turns in the second half. Robbie Beran (11 points) was the only player from the Northwest with double-digit points.
Meanwhile, Illinois (which shot 34.8% in the first half) shot 59.4% in the second half, including 8-for-14 out of three.
Coffee Cockburn (18 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks) led Illinois with his eighth double-double of the season, while Come on, Dosunmu added 15 points, six assists and five rebounds. Trent Fraser (14 points, 3-8 three), Adam Miller (14 points, 4-11 three) and GiveMonte Williams (6 points, 2-4 three) add a little firepower beyond the arc.
Illinois jumped to a 12-6 lead in the first five minutes, but Northwest dominated the last 15 minutes of the first half, overtaking Illinois 37-16 during that stretch, including 12-1 by the end of the half. But the message at Underwood’s half-time — whatever it was, no matter how obscene words were uttered — gave them the fire they needed, and then some.
What does it mean: Half-half inconsistency remains a problem for this team and can prevent them from achieving their high goals. But the Illini continue to show that they can be as good as anyone in the country in seizures. If Underwood can unlock a sequence, be careful. This Illinois team has the highest expectations since 2004-05 and is the best start of the Big Ten since Dee, Deron, Luther and company went 15-0 in a conference game before getting upset in the final of regular season in Ohio State. Illinois continues to gain victories during a favorable stretch in its schedule and achieved its second consecutive victory in the Big Ten on the road, crucial for any team to fight for the crown of the conference. Illini played three of the next four at home (Maryland, State and State) with their only game during this stretch in Nebraska, which is without a win in the Big Big game. Illinois has a chance to split sooner from most of the Big Ten package.
Game star: Cockburn had just five points and two rebounds in 12 minutes in the first half, and it didn’t look like his bike would return to its highest gear. But the big man was a monstrous truck in the second half, dominating the post with 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the second half. Cockburn plays as an All-Big Ten First player and potentially All-American.
Game statistics: The Northwest shot 2-for-24 in the second half. Two scored on the field in the second half. Illinois made this comeback because it plays elite defense and stops at stops.
Tonight @IlliniMBB lost by 15 at halftime to Northwestern, but won by 25.
They are the only Division I team in the last 25 seasons to change by 15+ points at halftime but win by 20 or more.
– Statistics from STATS (@StatsBySTATS) January 8, 2021
Don’t ignore: Jacob Grandison provide great energy at the start of the second half in the extended minutes after Da ‘Monte Williams left with an obvious ankle injury. After receiving DNP in favor of Coleman Hawkins against Purdue, Grandison had three points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the second half to help Illini.
What next: Illinois hosts Maryland at 7:00 a.m. Sunday (BTN). After winning a share of the Big Ten championship last season, the Therapists (6-6 1-5 Big Ten) have embarked on their worst start in the Big Ten since joining the league for the 2014-15 season. So far, Maryland is 13th in the Offensive Effectiveness Conference and 12th in Defensive Effectiveness, allowing opponents to fire 38.8 percent of the top three, the worst of the Big Ten. Three Maryland players average double digits: Eric Ayala (14.0 points), Donta Scott (12.9) and Aaron Wiggins (11.9).