A strong start usually means a strong finish and the Illini (13-5, 9-3 Big Ten) got both against the Badgers, (14-6, 8-5 Big Ten) winning 75-60 on their home court Saturday afternoon. It’s always good to get a win but a win against Wisconsin always means a little bit more to Illini fans. In the words of Brad Underwood, “This is a defending conference champion….they are as sound and solid as could be.”
The story of the day is Ayo Dosunmu’s triple double, just the third in Illini history. The junior finished the game with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists while playing 35 of the 40 minutes. Dosunmu was everywhere on the court, scoring, grabbing rebounds and dishing out assists and was the catalyst for the Illini offense. Dosunmu, as usual, gave the credit to his team saying “I give a lot of credit to my teammates. Any time you see someone record a triple-double, it's an accomplishment that is not an individual accomplishment.”
Despite his historic game, Dosunmu did not lead the Illini in scoring today. That honor belongs to Kofi Cockburn, who scored 23 points and grabbed 14 boards in yet another in a seemingly endless streak of double-doubles for him. Cockburn had eight dunks in today’s game as well, playing physically inside throughout the game. “Trayce dunked on me, now everyone has to feel me.” Cockburn said. Scary words for the Illini’s future opponents.
The Badgers were led by their star player D’Mitrik Trice. Trice finished with 22 points, scoring at all three levels almost at will. Nate Reuvers scored 11 points for the Badgers in the loss.
The Illini seem to have shaken their habit of starting slow, coming out fast in the past few games, today included. The Illini played excellent defense on the Badgers, holding them to just 60 points, 10 below their season average. They also held the Badgers to just 16 percent from three. The Illini were +27 on the boards grabbing 46 rebounds to Wisconsin’s 19. A win like this against a team like Wisconsin is a great resume builder for the Illini and an even bigger confidence booster.
With this win, the Illini have now won four in a row, two of those against ranked opponents. They currently sit second in the conference behind 8-1 Michigan. But the Illini are peaking at the right time, playing their best basketball of the season at just the right time.
The Illini take the court next against Northwestern in Champaign after their away game against Michigan was postponed earlier today.