BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Illinois was in a dogfight on the road at Indiana.
Down four with 13:11 left, a couple Jacob Grandison 3s gave the Illini the lead and they were off and running. They wouldn't trail from then on with a surge that ended with a 74-57 win over the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Saturday.
Illinois (17-5, 10-2 Big Ten) held Indiana (16-6, 7-5) to just 21 second-half points and also got its outside shots to start falling. A 32-11 run to end the game in a hostile environment showed how dominant the team's offense can be.
"They went up and they had their run and we just threw our punches back," Kofi Cockburn said.
Trent Frazier got back on track after shooting 5-for-20 over his past two by taking the game by the horns once again in conference play. He had 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting and was the team's best source of offense until the team's run late.
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"He eats up pressure," Underwood said.
Forteen of Frazier's points were in the second half, and his ability to make pull-up jumpers kept the offense afloat once again during a dry spell. He also had a team-high four assists.
Cockburn is the team's best player, but Frazier runs the offense and is the key to the team playing its best on that end of the floor.
Here are some takeaways from the win:
Kofi wins battle of bigs
The biggest storyline coming into the game was the battle of Cockburn and Indiana big Trayce Jackson-Davis as two of the top bigs in the conference.
Early foul trouble for Jackson-Davis and a slow start for Cockburn meant neither stood out in the first half, but Cockburn put together an impressive finish.
He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, but his defense on Jackson-Davis was equally if not more important.
Jackson-Davis struggled against the bigger and stronger Cockburn, finishing with six points on 3-of-9 shooting. With Cockburn erasing the opponent's best player, the rest of the defense shined allowing only 13 points in the final 15:32.
"Kofi is an elite defender," Underwood said. "Kofi wears a lot of people down just by the lean, the contact, the physicality and he's got great feet. Tonight he was extra special because he made everything Trayce shot come over the top and there were very few angled baskets."
Starting lineup dominates
In the 21 minutes Jacob Grandison played, Illinois was +19. Most of those minutes were with a starting lineup that has played a bunch of minutes.
Early foul trouble meant Grandison played just four minutes in the first half, and the offense was more stagnant in the first half. With Grandison back in the game in the second, the ball moved quicker, shots started falling and Kofi got the ball deeper in the post with better position and quicker post feeds.
"I'm never real comfortable when Jake's not on the court," Underwood said. "He does so many things for us shooting it and passing."
Grandison is one of the best at post entries on the team and helped Cockburn have a better second half.
That starting lineup broke the game open when they were finally able to play extended minutes together.
RJ Melendez, Luke Goode, Coleman Hawkins and Andre Curbelo were important off the bench in the first half and Curbelo will certainly get more minutes down the line, but it's clear what the team's best lineup is.
There is a big gap from the starters to the bench and against more competitive teams it shouldn't be a surprise if Underwood shortens his bench.
In the team's last loss to Maryland, a two-possession deficit in crunch time turned into a lopsided road loss after the Illini disintegrated on both ends of the floor.
With Cockburn back, Illinois is continuing to prove that was a one-off. The team faced a two-possession deficit in the second half Saturday, and instead the game got turned on its head and became the program's largest win at Assembly Hall.
The team did the complete opposite of wilting under pressure and has done so with key plays late against Northwestern and Wisconsin. It also did just enough late against Michigan State to hold on and win shorthanded.
This kind of steadiness has given Illinois three wins against NCAA Tournament caliber teams in its past four, and lays out a blueprint for how the team will need to execute to stay in and win games in the postseason.