Cockburn’s big second-half display, Hawkins’ efficiency guide Illinois men’s basketball past IUP

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Sydney Laput

Coleman Hawkins collects himself before shooting a 3-pointer during the game against Indiana Unversity at Pennsylvania on Friday at State Farm Center. Hawkins scored 16 points and made his first career start in the Illini’s 94-79 win.

By Christian Jones , Staff Writer

The Illini defeated Indiana (Penn.) in a hard-fought exhibition Friday night at State Farm Center, as the final score was 94-79.

IUP hung around all night, giving the Illini their first test of the season. They trailed by just seven points at halftime and out-rebounded the Illini before the break. They also had more points in the paint and a better field-goal percentage at halftime.

“Give Joe and his team a ton of credit,” said Illinois head coach Brad Underwood. “I cannot wait to watch the film, and I cannot wait till tomorrow’s practice. No offense to St. Francis, but now we have some work to do.”

Underwood was “ecstatic” about the challenge his team faced in tonight’s game. It gave them their first real look at what they need to improve on before the season gets started. 

Underwood pointed out several areas of weakness, including the team’s lack of effort on defense and lack of maturity. 

“I’m really really disappointed in our complete lack of maturity,” Underwood said. “We do that in practice; we chirp all the time when managers and coaches make a bad call. And that’s on me; we gotta quit that.”

Sophomore Coleman Hawkins picked up a technical foul late in the second half for shouting an expletive at the opposing team’s bench, and sophomore Andre Curbelo was rewarded with one of his own after complaining about multiple foul calls. 

The Illini led for most of the first half, but it wasn’t pretty. They lost the battle down low and were outscored and out-rebounded  in the paint. IUP collected 19 rebounds compared to 15 for the Illini.

Graduate student Alfonso Plummer was hot in the first half. He hit three of five attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocked down three free throws. But, Plummer would cool off as the night went on, as he failed to record a field goal in the second half, finishing with 16 points. 

“I think the big thing with Plum is that he’s gotta get in great shape. I thought he got tired,” Underwood said. “We played him a lot of minutes, and we’ve gotta get him in shape where he’s concentrating and knocking down shots late in the game. He is an elite shooter.”

Hawkins also made an impact in the first half. He caught two alley-oop passes from Curbelo that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Hawkins scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in the first half, and unlike Plummer, he carried his performance into the second half, finishing the game with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Hawkins flashed star talent tonight. His length and height, paired with guard-like ball skills, make him a dangerously versatile weapon for Underwood to develop. He shot just 2/7 from three, but the two that went in looked really good.

“You start to see what we see in practice all the time, you see his talent,” Underwood said. “He’s a better shooter than the two for seven shows. To be quite honest, he’s one of our better defenders, too.”

Indiana (PA) gameplanned for junior Kofi Cockburn tonight. He repeatedly saw two to three defenders whenever he tried to get post position, and it made it difficult for the Illini guards to get him the ball. Curbelo specifically struggled, with several of his 10 turnovers coming on failed entry passes to a double-teamed Cockburn. Curbelo made decent passes, but the defense was smothering.

Cockburn had a very efficient game nonetheless, and whenever the Illini were able to execute the entry pass, which wasn’t often, Cockburn scored easily. He finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds and shot 8/10 from the floor. Cockburn still hasn’t played much in this preseason, as Underwood has been trying to play him into shape, but when he’s been on the court he’s been dominant.

IUP head coach Joe Lombardi was not shy when sharing his team’s game plan, and he didn’t hesitate to explain where it failed. 

“You ever dig a ditch for four, five hours? On that fourth hour, you get tired,” Lombardi said. “(Kofi)’s gonna wear a lot of people down. Our big guys just got tired; I’m just glad on that one dunk I was standing 60 feet away.”

 

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