COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Fighting Illini men’s basketball team suffered its third-straight loss in the annual Braggin’ Rights game, this time on Missouri’s home court in Columbia. The score was 81-78.
Ayo Dosunmu scored a career-high 36 points, but was unable to convert a running three-pointer in the closing seconds. He said he made a split-second decision in hopes of getting three free-throws or even a four-point play.
“I heard Coach (Underwood) screaming ‘foul,’ so I got in my shooting motion,” Dosunmu said. “I thought his hand got in there, and I thought there was going to be some contact.”
Coach Brad Underwood wasn’t happy that Dosunmu had to do so much of the work, and was especially critical of his team’s rebounding.
“It’s all effort. You can’t rebound if you don’t go,” Underwood said. “I will get that problem solved, I promise you. That is all effort. No one on our team had an offensive rebound in the first half.”
Overall, the Tigers outrebounded the Illini 35-26, and led by as many as 13 points in the second half. Dosunmu tied the game at 76 with 3:18 remaining.
Kofi Cockburn added 19 points for Illinois, plus a team-high 6 rebounds. He scored the team’s final points on a two-handed dunk with 40 seconds remaining. When Missouri’s Mitchell Smith collapsed to the floor, Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin asked referees Terry Oglesby, Don Daily and Terry Wymer to review that play. They did, and subsequently Cockburn was assessed a controversial Flagrant 1 foul, which gave Missouri two free-throws plus possession — effectively ending the game.
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said he didn’t understand why the dunk counted.
“I was so emotional about what happened with Mitch, I didn’t realize they counted the basket until Drew Smith was shooting free throws,” Martin said. “And I looked up, I said, ‘I thought we were up four (points).”
Underwood said he didn’t see the play, but thought he’d be “pretty ticked” that the officials intervened, based on how the Cockburn/Mitchell Smith contact was described by those who saw the replay.
Dru Smith led the Tigers with 18 points. Xavier Pinson added 17, and former Illini recruit Javon Pinkett 14.
In addition to rebounding, the game was also decided at the free-throw line, where Illinois converted only 17-28 attempts, while Missouri shot 26-31.
Former Illini Assistant Jimmy Collins Dies
Former Illinois assistant basketball coach Jimmy Collins died Sunday morning. He was 74.
As a player, Collins led Lou Henson’s New Mexico State team to the Final Four in 1970. He played professional basketball for the Chicago Bulls, and rejoined Henson at Illinois in 1983. Collins was responsible for recruiting much of the 1989 Flyin’ Illini team, as well as all-time leading scorer Deon Thomas.
The Thomas recruitment brought scrutiny from the NCAA after Iowa assistant coach Bruce Pearl alleged improprieties. Nothing improper was discovered in the subsequent investigation, but the Illinois program was sanctioned for “lack of institutional control” nonetheless.
Pearl later became the focus of multiple NCAA investigations, and was eventually slapped with a three-year “show cause” order by the NCAA, which effectively prevented him from being hired. He is currently the head coach at Auburn.
The Pearl affair is thought to have prevented Collins from succeeding Henson at Illinois in 1996. Instead, Collins took the same position at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he became the winningest coach in Flames history.
Deon Thomas is now Associate Director for Development at the U of I, and provides color commentary for radio coverage of Illini basketball games.
Collins is survived by his wife Hettie and children Erica, Kenny, Semaj and Brandi.
Rob McColley covers University of Illinois athletics for WILL.