|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET2:00 PM GMT10:00 PM 北京时间7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST, Jan 29, 2021
State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois Attendance: 190
No. 7 Iowa meets No. 19 Illinois in battle of bigs
As basketball has become more position-less, a matchup of legitimate back-to-the-basket centers has gone the way of black-and-white TVs or civility in politics.
One might want to refer to Friday night's Big Ten Conference showdown between No. 7 Iowa and No. 19 Illinois in Champaign, Ill., as a blast from the past. With 6-foot-11, 265-pound Hawkeye Luka Garza banging bodies against 7-foot, 285-pound Kofi Cockburn, the paint will be the place to watch.
Garza is the consensus favorite to win national player of the year honors. The senior leads the Big Ten with an average of 26.9 points per game while adding 8.9 rebounds and blocking nearly two shots per game. Garza is scoring efficiently, hitting 61 percent from the field and 75.5 percent at the foul line.
Cockburn averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, although he was just as capable of landing in foul trouble as he was to go for 20 and 10. This season, he is scoring 17.4 points and grabbing 10.3 rebounds a night, canning 70.1 percent of his shots and flashing more consistency.
While Cockburn's immense size advantage leads to its share of thunderous dunks and warmup layups, he also has showed the ability to use the glass as though he were Tim Duncan 2.0.
Cockburn has also displayed a soft fallaway jumper, a weapon his future NBA coach might prefer to stay under wraps.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has noticed the obvious improvement in Cockburn's game.
"He was more one-dimensional last year," McCaffery said. "He's not so much this year. He was always big and strong, but I think his stamina is much better. He's more comfortable with the guys that play with him."
Who wouldn't be comfortable with a threat such as Ayo Dosunmu, whose average of 21.7 points per game ranks only behind Garza in the conference?
Dosunmu is canning 49 percent of his shots while finding time to chip in 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
Even on nights like Jan. 19, when Penn State ran double-teams at Dosunmu all night and held him to 13 points in the Fighting Illini's 79-65 win, he still affects the texture of a game. He turned distributor, bagging a team-high five assists.
Illinois (10-5, 6-3 Big Ten) drew assists on 18 of 26 field goals in that game as it snapped a two-game losing streak, playing with more intensity than it had displayed in weeks.
"We had 18 assists in one basketball game. That's really great," Cockburn said, according to the (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette. "We elevated each other ... playing for each other, trusting each other to make the shot, making an extra pass. Give up a good shot for a great shot."
The Hawkeyes (12-3, 6-2) haven't played since an 81-69 upset home loss on Jan. 21 to Indiana, which wiped out a second-half deficit with a stunning 23-3 run. Garza supplied 28 points and 12 rebounds, but Iowa clanged away to the tune of 26.5 percent after halftime.
The Friday game will be the season's only meeting between the teams. Illinois and Iowa split two matchups last season, each winning at home.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 29, 2021