CHAMPAIGN — Ayo Dosunmu proved again his preseason All-American honor was deserved. Andre Curbelo took his turn for the breakout freshman performance. And No. 8 Illinois crushed Chicago State 97-38 on Thursday at State Farm Center.
Dosunmu led Illinois with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Curbelo went off in the second half, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds, often pulling down a board and running a one-man fast break.
Three other Illini also hit double-digit scoring. Adam Miller followed up his 28-point debut with 15 points against Chicago State. Kofi Cockburn also had another double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Trent Frazier added 14 points and four rebounds.
Illinois (2-0) will wrap up play in its own multi-team event with a noon Friday tipoff against Ohio.
We're a go at State Farm Center for day two of Illinois' multi-team event. Be sure to follow along all day with our beat writer, who's posted up at State Farm Center this week:
Illinois, of course, would have been ranked high either way. Limiting the scope to only teams that have played, however, saw the Illini check in as the No. 8 most efficient offense and No. 20 most efficient defense.
A further dive reveals the Illini rank first in effective field goal percentage (70 percent!) and first nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (60.6 percent). Not to mention third in defensive rebounding percentage (10.6 percent) and third in three-point percentage (54.8 percent).
The Illini won't always have games like it did against North Carolina A&T, but they did manage to pad their advanced stats to start the season. (And will probably do the same today against Chicago State).
Adam Miller making 6 of 8 three-pointers and scoring 28 points in his Illinois debut generated a little national college basketball interest.
Season-Opening Awards: Best Win: San Diego State over UCLABest Mid-Major Win: Western Kentucky over UNIWorst Loss: Pittsburgh vs. St. Francis (Pa.)Most Disappointing: Kansas State losing to DrakeBest Debut: Illinois frosh Adam Miller (28 points, 6-8 from 3)— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) November 26, 2020
Illinois' 62-point victory wasn't the only big win for the Big Ten yesterday, although it was the biggest. Eleven other Big Ten teams played on the season's first day, and, like the Illini, they all won.
I will note that the closest game came via my alma mater, with Eastern Illinois putting together a second half rally before dropping a 77-67 game a Wisconsin. The Panthers' Mack Smith was not efficient on the offensive end, but his lone made shot was a three-pointer. That puts Smith's streak of 82 consecutive games with a made three-pointer, which is just six shy of former Illini guard Cory Bradford's national record of 88.
Anyway, here's what stood out to me from the Big Ten openers:
— Iowa's Luka Garza picked right back up from where he left off, finishing with 26 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the Hawkeyes' 97-67 win against North Carolina Central.
— Michigan State has a point guard. At least through one game. Foster Loyer dropped a game-high 20 points in the Spartans' 83-67 victory against Eastern Michigan (aka the first post-Cassius Winston game).
— Ohio State simply took care of business in a 94-67 win against Illinois State. Cal transfer Justice Suening's 19 points made him one of five Buckeyes in double figures.
— Rutgers beat Sacred Heart 86-63, but Geo Baker was hurt and on crutches afterward. I still think Ron Harper Jr. is the Scarlet Knights' best player (and he had 18 points points and 10 rebounds), but Baker's not a guy Rutgers wants to lose for any length of time.
— The only downside of Michigan's 96-82 win against Bowling Green is the fact the Falcons scored 82 points. That's not a slight to Justin Turner, who is legit and opted to return to Bowling Green after initially testing the transfer portal waters. But it was a game from Wake Forest transfer (and one-time Illinois target) Chaundee Brown for the Wolverines with a team-high 19 points.
— Nebraska nearly doubled up McNeese State in a 102-55 win. The Cornhuskers won't always have six players in double figures, but a rotating leading scorer (at least early in the year) wouldn't surprise me.
— Eric Ayala had 19 points in Maryland's 85-67 victory against Old Dominion. In a post-Anthony Cowan world, that's a good thing.
— It wasn't a splashy 77-64 win for Purdue, but 7-foot-4, 285-pound freshman center Zach Edey scoring a team-high 19 points was an eye opener.
— Hello, Marcus Carr. The Minnesota guard scored 35 points and also had seven rebounds and four assists in the Gophers' 99-69 win against Green Bay.
— Again, it's just one game, but Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis could be making one of those sophomore leaps. Jackson-Davis finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the Hoosiers' 89-59 victory against Tennessee Tech.
Two unavailable Illini were already on the court (and had been there a while) when I made it to State Farm Center just before 9 a.m.
Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, who's coming back from a foot injury, was mostly getting in some sprint work — both cross-court and baseline to baseline. The redshirt freshman forward also took a breather between sprints to get some free throws up.
Sixth-year guard Tyler Underwood, who is coming off an arm injury, was also out early getting some shots up.
Neither Bosmans-Verdonk or Underwood played in Wednesday's season opener against North Carolina A&T. Neither did redshirt junior guard Austin Hutcherson, who is out with a back injury. They're not on track to play today either. Bosmans-Verdonk is arguably the closest to being back, and Illinois coach Brad Underwood said he likely won't be back until sometime next month.
Less than 24 hours ago Illinois was putting the finishing touches on a 62-point victory against North Carolina A&T. Not to read too much into that type of performance, it was the kind of game a top 10 team should have against a low major team that finished last season ranked 287th in KenPom.
But it was a little more than that, too. Illinois and North Carolina A&T largely had the same rosters from when they met last December in Champaign, and that was only a 31-point Illini win. Doubling the margin of victory 11 months later was an accomplishment.
Three-point shooting carries No. 8 Illinois to 122-60 victory against North Carolina A&T
That the duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller nearly outscored North Carolina A&T by themselves points to just how dominant those two were and how dominant the Illini were in general. Dosunmu had a double-double. So did Kofi Cockburn. Da'Monte Williams stuffed the stat sheet. Jacob Grandison was productive off the bench.
Dosunmu and Miller led the way, but it was a rather notable team effort.
Hitting a single-game record 17 three-pointers helped, of course, and Dosunmu and Miller accounted for 11 of those makes. Those two were also pretty important in Illinois torching the Aggies in transition on a fairly regular basis — enough for a 37-6 advantage in fast break points.
Now it's time to do it again.
Illini aim to go 2-0 after cruising to season-opening win on Wednesday afternoon against North Carolina A&T
Illinois is a 39-point favorite today against Chicago State. The Cougars are coming off a 23-point loss to Ohio and were the worst Division I program in the country a year ago. Today is another "take care of business" type game from the No. 8-ranked Illini.
Will Illinois hit 17 three-pointers again? Can't say no after yesterday's free-for-all, but it's certainly not a given. Will Miller light up another team in just the second game of his career? Well, can't unequivocally say no to that one either.
But it's simple. Take care of Chicago State like you took care of North Carolina A&T and clean up the few problem spots from a day ago. Think a few fewer turnovers and maybe a more efficient game from Trent Frazier.