Playing in their first NCAA Tournament game in eight years, the Illinois Fighting Illini came out flying, knocking off the Drexel Dragons in a 78-49 romp.
Ayo Dosunmu, playing in his first NCAA Tournament game, exploded in the second half, as he finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in an excellent all-around effort.
Kofi Cockburn had a dominant second half for the Illini, racking up 10 points and throwing down several thunderous dunks on his way to an 18-point night at the office.
Trent Frazier and Adam Miller both finished in double figures for the victorious Illini, who now await the winner of Loyola-Georgia Tech in the second round.
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The Illini got off to a slow start offensively in the game, but their defense came to play, forcing Drexel into numerous bad shots and disrupted offensive sets in the early going. Cockburn was one of the lone bright spots on offense, going 4-of-5 from the field early to help Illinois to a 21-13 lead with six minutes left in the half.
Illinois’ offense finally woke up in the closing minutes, as Frazier racked up nine points and Dosunmu and Cockburn each chipped in with eight to close the first half with the Illini ahead 39-21.
Cockburn and the Illini continued to pour on the offense in the early parts of the second half, with the big man registering 10 quick points in the second half. Drexel’s three-point shooting kept the game from getting too far out of hand, but even with those shots, the Dragons saw their tournament end after one round as Illinois cruised to an easy victory.
The Illini will next be in action on Sunday in the Indianapolis area, with the start time to be determined.
The Illini are on a 13-4 run to start out the second half and now lead by 27 points as Drexel calls a timeout five minutes in. Ayo Dosunmu has five of those points, including a fast break dunk following a steal, and Kofi Cockburn has four points so far in the second half.
The Illini finally seem to have found their rhythm at the end of the half, as they now lead 39-21 over Drexel at the break.
Trent Frazier leads all Illini scorers with nine points in the first half, and Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn each picked up eight points in the frame.
Dosunmu also racked up seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in the first half.
Illinois now on an 8-0 run late in the first half, with Ayo Dosunmu finally coming alive. Da'Monte Williams also canned a jumper just before the shot clock expired, and Jacob Grandison made a lay-up to give Illinois a 31-17 lead with 2:49 left in the half.
Illinois off to a bit of a slow start on the offensive side of things, shooting just 42% from the field early, but Kofi Cockburn has been on fire to start up the contest, going 4-of-5 from the field. 21-13 Illinois with six minutes to go in the first half.
Dosunmu is coming off of a strong performance in the Big Ten Tournament, as he was named the Most Outstanding Player. Illinois, who was in the title game of that tournament for the first time since 2008, captured the crown for the first time since 2005 with an overtime win over Ohio State in their last game.
Dosunmu was also recently named USA Today’s National Player of the Year, and was named a First-Team All-American for his efforts during the regular season, as he averaged 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Cockburn was recently named a Second-Team All-American, averaging 17.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore season with the Illini. He finished second in the country in double-doubles, as he registered 16 of them during the regular season.
The Illini have been getting some red-hot three-point shooting from Da’Monte Williams and Trent Frazier, and their bench has been a huge part of their recent success, with Andre Curbelo averaging 14 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in his last seven games.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili gives the Illini another big threat on the inside, as he scored 12 points and chipped in with six rebounds as he subbed in for Cockburn in the Big Ten title game Sunday.