Illinois basketball cruises to 114-56 win over Coppin State

Illinois’ Aaron Cosby (11) takes a shot during the game against Coppin State at State Farm Center, on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. The Illini won 114 to 56.

The Illinois men’s basketball team found its rhythm on both ends of the floor against Coppin State.

Unlike Friday when the Illini (2-0) squeaked out an 80-71 win over Georgia Southern, Illinois was in control from the start and handily beat Coppin State 114–56.

Offensively, Illinois shot 55.4 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from beyond the arc in the game. Defensively, the team was just as dominant, holding the Eagles to 29.6 percent shooting from the field.

“The game really started with our defensive disposition,” head coach John Groce said. “It starts with our defense and our rebounding. I thought for the first time in four opportunities to play, including the Dayton scrimmage, that we had an edge to us defensively that reminded me of last season.”

While Coppin State (0-2) scored first on a three from the right corner, Illinois controlled the first half, and the entire game, from start to finish. After the three, Illinois responded with a 16-0 run. The Illini didn’t let up for the remainder of the half, as the team continued to nail shot after shot and expand the lead.

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    The Illini were hot offensively from every part of the floor. They shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the half. The offensive hot streak propelled the team to a lopsided lead that had ballooned to 59-24 by halftime.

    “I don’t know if you’re going to shoot the ball like that every night,” Groce said. “We have some pretty good shooters though.

    “We can make some shots, and there’s a multitude of guys that can do that. It’s a nice luxury to have.”

    Aaron Cosby led the Illini offensively in the first half. The junior tallied 12 points and shot 80 percent from three. Illinois had two other players in double figures at the half, as both Ahmad Starks and Malcolm Hill added 10.

    Illinois played just as effectively on the defensive end in the first half. The Illini recorded three blocks and five steals in the half and held Coppin State to 24 points and 27.3 percent shooting from the field.

    Illinois’ starters couldn’t add to their point totals in the second half as the Illini pulled all five starters after 10 quick points gave the team a sizeable 69-28 lead.

    The Illini second unit picked up where the starters left off as the team continued to build its lead. Freshman forward Leron Black and Starks finished as the Illini’s top scorers, both with 18 points. Cosby finished the game with 17. Christian Kessee and Jahvari Josiah led Coppin State with 11 each. 

    Despite the gaudy offensive statistics, both Groce and the players were more impressed with the way Illinois played defensively. It came as no surprise that Starks praised the team’s defense when asked about his excitement toward the Illini’s play on the offensive end.

    “We’re doing a good job,” Starks said. “Coach is more proud of us on that side of the floor. Holding them under 60 points was more important. But it was definitely fun.”

    Nicholas can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @IlliniSportsGuy.