Illinois dominates offensive, defensive glass in four-point road win over Iowa

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Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Da’Monte Williams drives to the basket during Illinois’ 87-83 win at Iowa on Monday in Iowa City. The Illini out rebounded the Hawkeyes 52-23 and grabbed 19 offensive boards.

By Christian Jones, Staff Writer

Illinois pulled down 29 more rebounds than Iowa as the Illini won 87-83 in Iowa City on Monday. All but one of the Illini who touched the floor grabbed at least two rebounds.

Junior Kofi Cockburn scored 17 points and grabbed 18 of Illinois’ 52 rebounds, setting a new career high. Senior Trent Frazier also recorded a career-high eight rebounds to go along with 18 points. 

“Kofi’s elite, but I thought it was Da’Monte, I thought it was Trent, I thought it was our guards getting back and chasing balls,” Underwood said. “When we get in trouble, we want to be a ‘Kofi-defensive rebounding’ team.”

After Monday’s win, Underwood’s squad is eighth in the nation in rebound margin, second in the Big Ten only to No. 1 Purdue.

The win also marked Underwood’s first career win in Iowa City after losing on the road to Iowa for the past four years. It comes at a great time for the Illini, who seem to be putting things together, even without their starting point guard. 

“Practice, healthy bodies, continuity: all those things, we’re making strides,” Underwood said. “We can’t get to where we want turning the ball over like that, but we were fractured; we weren’t cohesive. And now we’ve got a better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Coming into Monday, many expected Cockburn to dominate the Hawkeyes down low due to their lack of size. Iowa’s two tallest players, Josh Ogundele and Riley Mulvey, both stand at 6 feet, 11 inches but each play only about seven minutes a game. 

But turnovers were bound to be a problem for the Illini. Iowa has forced 127 turnovers this season and committed only 67, good for fifth in the nation in turnover ratio. With an average of 15.6 turnovers per game, the Illini have been one of the most turnover-prone teams this season.

The job of containing Cockburn was left to twin forwards Kris and Keegan Murray, who stand at 6 feet, 8 inches. In the first half, the Murray twins had success doubling Cockburn. The Hawkeyes played the passing lanes very well. They ended the first half with four steals.

They held Cockburn to just three points and six rebounds in the first. In the second half, Cockburn was dominant, as he grabbed 12 rebounds and scored 14 points all while still being doubled.

“He’s understanding where double teams are coming better and how to play out of them,” Underwood said. “He’s a willing passer when maybe as a freshman he wasn’t. He’s grown in a lot of ways, most of them mental.”

 

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