INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kofi Cockburn muscled his way to 18 points and Illinois cruised past 16th-seeded Drexel 78-49 Friday in the Illini’s first NCAA Tournament game as a No. 1 seed in 16 years.
Illinois (23-6) will face eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago or ninth-seeded Georgia Tech in the second round of the Midwest Regional on Sunday.READ MORE: Carol Stream Woman Charged After Getting Too Close To Grizzly Bear And Cubs At Yellowstone National Park
Maybe that will be more of a test for the Big Ten champions. Drexel (12-8) never really had chance at containing the 7-foot, 285-pound Cockburn, who was 8 for 11 from the field.
James Butler — 6-8 and 242 pounds — drew the daunting task of trying to handle Cockburn, without much success. The senior did have 10 points and 10 rebounds for Drexel.
— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) March 19, 2021
The Dragons closed the season with four straight victories, including three during a surprising run through the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, to earn a bid to the NCAAs for the first time since 1996. They managed to stay competitive for about seven minutes, taking an 8-7 lead.
Indiana Farmers Coliseum, home of IUPUI of the Horizon League and a minor league hockey team, hosted the Midwest Region games Friday. The 82-year-old building that hosted the Beatles’ only concert in Indiana normally holds about 6,800 for basketball, but capacity was capped at 1,200 for its first NCAA games because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Illini fans, excited to see the first No. 1-seeded Illinois team since the program’s last Final Four run in 2005, seemed to get their hands on most of the tickets, dotting the stands with blue and orange.READ MORE: Lollapalooza Enters Day 2; Organizers Say 90% Of Fans Showed Proof Of Vaccination Thursday
It took their team a few minutes to find a groove. All-American Dosunmu didn’t score his first points until he swooped in for a layup with 6:19 left in the first half.
Still sporting a black Batman mask to protect the broken nose he suffered last month, Dosunmu finished with 17 points.
Cockburn got loose for 10 straight Illinois points, capping his personal run with a slam off a flip from Dosunmu. The Illini closed the half on a 32-13 run. The lead got to 20 points after a minute in the second half and never dipped below that the rest of the way.
Drexel: The Dragons had to finish with a flourish to shoot 31% for the game after being held to 22% in the first half. There just weren’t many good looks against the longer and quicker Illini.
Illinois: Maybe the best news for the Illini: Nobody had to play more than 32 minutes.
The Illini are 12-3 all-time against in-state rival Loyola, last playing the Ramblers in 2011. They are 7-2 against Georgia Tech, with the last meeting in the 2013-14 season.MORE NEWS: Chicago Bears Fans Arrive At Training Camp
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