MINNEAPOLIS – Ayo Dosunmu had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double of the season, Kofi Cockburn scored 22 points in 24 minutes, and Illinois ’No. 5 cruised Minnesota on Saturday 94-63 for his seventh straight win.
Trent Frazier added 15 points and six steals to help Illini (15-5, 12-3) stay in second place in the blue Big Ten with two weeks to stay in the league. Illini had speeds of 31-8 in quick breaks, shooting 56% off the floor and extorting 18 lost Gophers balls (13-10, 6-10).
Freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr. led Minnesota with 16 points and six rebounds, and his father, former NBA player Jamal Mashburn, personally watched it for the first time in college.
Of the warm-up exercises, though a game-like vibe that developed during the second half, Illinois filled the mostly empty arena with chanting and cheering, a relentless and fun energy that Gophers never responded to. Whether it was the thunderous dunking of a 7-foot, 285-pound Cockburn with one hand or the addition from Dosunmu to Giorgi Bezhanishvili of the slam, Illini had a lot to smile about.
The team that shot the best in the Big Ten didn’t miss a single shot, starting at halftime in the 29-14 series to break the equalizer in the middle of the first half as the Gopher became increasingly upset with the ball. When Marcus Carr was up for a pass from Tre ‘Williams in the final seconds, Frazier intercepted him and threw a shot from the halfway line that swung into a buzz for a 48-33 lead.
In the first game of the second half, Cockburn bounced a missed three-pointer in front of fellow seven Liam Robbins and nailed it without resistance.
Robbins, playing through a sprained ankle, had four blocks and four assists, but he passed without a goal in 13 minutes. The Gophers also missed Gabe Kalscheur, their top defender and third scorer, due to a broken finger on his shooter’s hand. Carr and Brandon Johnson had 12 points each, and Williams scored 11 points for Minnesota, which has lost six of its last eight games.
Illinois: With its seventh win in “Quad 1,” as defined by the NCAA’s formula for the strength of the schedule, Illinois has matched Gonzaga for the second largest in the country. They come in the first competition with the 1st seed, with five wins in a row and the best Big Ten record since 2005.
Minnesota: Despite wins over Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan – three of the top four teams in the Big Ten and all ranked in the top 11 of the latest AP polls – the Gophers are nowhere near the lock for the NCAA tournament. A win in the last four games of the regular season may be required to enter.
Illinois: Visiting Michigan on Tuesday. With a game against Nebraska scheduled for Thursday, Illini will play four games in eight days, ending with a trip to Wisconsin next Saturday.
Minnesota: Host of Northwestern on Thursday, a game postponed by two days to open space for a repeat match in Nebraska to be played next Saturday.