College/Prep Sports Reporter
Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).
Kofi Cockburn scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Illinois beat Hawaii 66-53 on Monday night.
Cockburn recorded his third double-double in four games this season. Trent Frazier added 13 points, Giorgi Bezhanishvili 10 and Andres Feliz had 10 assists for Illinois (3-1).
Zigmars Raimo led Hawaii (3-2) with 16 points. Eddie Stansberry, the Rainbow Warriors leading scorer (20 points per game) was held to 10 points on 4-of -4 shooting, thanks to the smothering defense of Frazier.
Both teams were cold in the first five minutes, with Illinois going 0 for 7 to start the game. The score was tied at 26 at the half.
Illinois used a 14-2 run late in the game to take control. The Illini were 15 of 23 from the free throw line, while the Rainbow Warriors were only 2 of 3.
The Illini continued their trend of starting cold and playing catch-up in the second half, although having eight days off may have contributed to that on Monday. The Illini play seven of the next eight games at home.
As always, right here at IlliniHQ.com is the place to be for in-game updates. Plus plenty of postgame coverage, including video interviews with Illinois coach Brad Underwood and select players.
For now? Stick around to follow along with beat writer Scott Richey (that's me) from his courtside seat at State Farm Center as the Illini try to get back in the win column against Hawaii.
Illinois hasn't played since Sunday's loss at Arizona. Brad Underwood considered his team's week off time well spent ahead of tonight's game against Hawaii — and then later games this week against The Citadel and Hampton.
"It’s been a good time to re-evaluate some things," the Illini coach said. "It’s been a good time to kind of get back to basics and try to clean up a few things, maybe add a few things. We’ve got a very, very good Hawaii team coming in here. A team that is 3-1 and coming off a victory in their last game, which they shot the ball extremely well."
Underwood's biggest takeaway from the opening week of the season and Illinois' 2-1 start was turnovers. Mostly that the Illini committed way too many. Underwood made sure that was a point of emphasis for his team last week.
"When you turn the basketball over, it skews literally every phase of the game," Underwood said. "We gave up 26 points in transition (against Arizona). It’s pretty hard to be a good defensive team when you can’t contest an uncontested layup or a live ball turnover. We’ve tried to become more conscientious of that, but keep our tempo and keep our pace and make better decisions with what we do in the half court."
Former Valparaiso and Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew is on the call tonight on ESPNU. He's familiar with this Illinois team, having coached against Brad Underwood the past two seasons in "secret" scrimmages.
A difference, though? Kofi Cockburn in the middle for the Illini. Drew sees that as an advantage for Illinois coach Brad Underwood.
"With Brad, he’s great at adapting," Drew said. "I know he’ll adapt this team to get the best out of their abilities. I can’t think there’s too many teams in the country that would not take Kofi Cockburn on their team. He is a throwback center — he definitely goes back a generation or two — but I think he’s that good and he’ll impact the game enough that the style and things will have to change to help him because he’s that good."
Kofi Cockburn (@kxng_alpha) is continuing to make strides, and the @IlliniMBB freshman center is pushing himself to do even more. #Illinihttps://t.co/xq8ROvSYfE via @srrichey pic.twitter.com/cE4gGIXzcf— IlliniHQ (@IlliniHQ) November 18, 2019
Good evening everybody, and welcome back to another LIVE! Report from State Farm Center. Let's be honest, a week without basketball at this stage of the season was kind of weird. Tonight's Illinois game almost feels a bit like a restart of the season.
Maybe that's the vibe the Illini need. The opening week of the season ended in a thud with a 21-point loss at then No. 21 (and now No. 14) Arizona. Illinois continued to turn the ball over too much, got stagnant in its halfcourt offense and couldn't slow down the Wildcats' guards.
A restart after a week off might be just what the basketball doctor ordered. Not that tonight's game against Hawaii is a gimme. The Rainbow Warriors, making their first trip to the mainland this season, are 3-1. No truly impressive wins yet, but they have shown they can stroke it from three-point range. Illinois' three-point defense is very much a work in progress at the moment.
It's another busy week of basketball for the Illini, too. Three games in the opening week will be matched with three games this week. Showdowns with The Citadel (Wednesday) and Hampton (Saturday) await.
Illinois will be heavy favorites in all three games. The Illini are 15 1/2-point favorites tonight. That number will only rise against The Citadel and Hampton. All three teams — OK, maybe The Citadel the least — do present a fairly specific challenge for the Illini. For Hawaii, it's three-point shooting. The Citadel at least plays really fast. And Hampton has the second-leading scorer in the nation in Jermaine Marrow (29.7 ppg).
Time to find out if the week off made a difference for Brad Underwood's crew. The Rainbow Warriors are up first.