Cockburn, Feliz big scorers on starting lineup

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Ben Tschetter

Freshman center Kofi Cockburn rises for a layup against Nicholls State at State Farm Center on Nov. 5. Cockburn is currently leading the Illini in total rebounds, averaging 10.7 rebounds-per-game.

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff Writer

Senior Andres Feliz and freshman Kofi Cockburn are relatively new additions to the Illinois men’s basketball starting lineup. While Feliz started in four games last season, his main role was the sixth man. Freshman Cockburn has assumed the starting center position in Illinois’ first three games. 

While the Illini (2-1) are still learning to mesh as a new group, Feliz and Cockburn have been clear leaders on both sides of the court just three games into the season. 

Scoring surge 

Sophomore Ayo Dosunmu has been expected to take the reins of the Illini offense this year, but with pressure on the point guard, Feliz is currently holding it down. Feliz has been Illinois’ early top scorer, averaging 19 points a game. 

Feliz led the Illini in their home opener against Nicholls State on Nov. 5 with 23 points, but more noteworthy was his 7 points in the overtime period to seal the win. 

While Feliz’s surge early this season is impressive, it is not surprising. The senior steadily improved throughout last season, averaging 12.1 points in the last seven games compared to his average of 8.3 points per game on the 2018-19 season. 

Dosunmu is still making plenty of noise offensively with 15 points per game, but Cockburn falls right behind him with 14 points per game. While sophomore Giorgi Bezhanishvili controlled the inside for Illinois last season, Cockburn has been dominant in the paint, creating more outside space for Bezhanishvili. 

Cockburn had his best outing at Grand Canyon last Friday with his own 23-point game. The freshman shot .667 against GCU, similar to his season average of .600. 

On the glass

At about 290 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, there is no surprise Cockburn is a rebounding machine. With his 10.7 rebounds per game, Cockburn is averaging a double-double. 

Cockburn is not only leading the Illini in total rebounds (32) but has grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, at least seven more than any other Illini. Sophomore Alan Griffin is second in offensive rebounds with eight. 

Feliz has been just as important on the glass as Illinois’ top rebounder on defense with 27 total. While the 6-foot 2-inch guard is among the three shortest players, Feliz’s high-intensity play on defense will often offset the height difference. 

Coming into his second season at Illinois, Feliz had just one double-double but has recorded two already this season. The guard grabbed 11 rebounds against Nicholls State, then another 10 at No. 21 Arizona last Sunday. 

Potential improvements

Feliz and Cockburn have been two of the biggest forces on both ends of the court for Illinois, but each player still has greater potential. 

While Feliz’s field goal percentage is at .500, the third highest on the team, he still lacks comfort behind the three-point line. Feliz has only attempted five three-pointers this season, making just one. Last season, the guard made just 10 three’s on 37 attempts. 

The Illini are averaging a .292 three-point shooting percentage through three games after shooting .345 from behind the arc last season. 

Cockburn has the free-throw attempts for the Illini with 23 but has made just 12 of those. Drawing multiple fouls a game will be a regular routine for Cockburn with his physical presence, putting more pressure on the freshman to improve at the charity stripe.

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