Up Next: Big Ten Tournament

Up Next: Big Ten Tournament

Fighting Illini basketball prepares for long conference tournament weekend.

Peyton Wesner – Producer and Men’s Basketball Reporter
March 11, 2020

It’s been a while since the Fighting Illini have encountered a ‘TBD’ opponent at the Big Ten Tournament.

In fact, the last time was 2009 when the conference had eleven schools and Mike Davis was on the team. Davis may be long gone, but this Illinois group is just as talented as its predecessors.

The No. 21 Fighting Illini have enjoyed the fruits of a double-bye this week. The team was off on Monday while yesterday focused on individual drills. Today, the team scrimmaged with simulated game situations.

“It’s all about us. There’s been no game prep,” said head coach Brad Underwood on Wednesday. “It’s almost like a breath of fresh air hit you when you get out of the grind of league play.”

The Big Ten Tournament features six Top 25 teams, two more than any other conference. Illinois could play a ranked team in any game, including its quarterfinal on Friday.

“We’re looking forward to Indianapolis. It can be one of those elite tournaments where literally anyone can win it,” said Underwood. “Emotionally, you have to keep it simplistic and every game is just that.

A potential quarterfinal opponent is No. 25 Iowa, who is the fifth seed in the tournament. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza, the Hawkeyes will be looking for retribution following Sunday’s 78-76 loss in Champaign.

If the case, Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn would be matched up once more with Garza. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year had the game-winning block on Iowa’s star three days ago.

Cockburn will need to bring his best for Underwood’s squad to streak through the tournament. Big Ten postseason honorees Jalen Smith of Maryland or Xavier Tillman of Michigan State exist as potential one-on-one matchups for Cockburn later this week.

“Every team in the Big Ten has a really good big man. And, every night is a different challenge,” said Cockburn. “It’s mental growth as much as it’s physical growth.”

Ayo Dosunmu has been extremely impressive since returning on February 18. The sophomore is averaging 19.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists over his last six games.

“I’m feeling great. I put a lot of work, a lot of sweat into my game,” said Dosunmu of this week. “Selection Sunday is coming up, so it would be a great impression.”

Illinois will travel to Indianapolis later today. The team’s first game will be early Friday afternoon (approximately 1:30 p.m.) against either Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern.

Cockburn wins Big Ten Freshman of Year, Dosunmu earns First Team honors

Cockburn wins Big Ten Freshman of Year, Dosunmu earns First Team honors

Freshman-sophomore duo accomplish feats last achieved in 2010.

Peyton Wesner – Producer and Men’s Basketball Reporter
March 9, 2020

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — One day after the No. 21 Fighting Illini (21-10, 13-7) vanquished Iowa, freshman center Kofi Cockburn wasted no time in starting the postseason off right by being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The seven-foot center is the first Illinois player since DJ Richardson in 2010 to win the award.

“He’s impacted our program in every aspect,” said head coach Brad Underwood of Cockburn on Sunday. “He’s had some unbelievable moments in the best league in the country.”

Cockburn concludes his first collegiate regular season averaging 13.3 points per game to go along with 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The Kingston, Jamaica, native’s twelve double-doubles rank fifth among all freshmen in NCAA Division I basketball.

Cockburn was not the only Fighting Illini to receive conference honors on Monday. Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu became the first Illinois All-Big Ten First Team selection since Demetri McCamey, also, in 2010.

“Find anybody whose better. Find anybody who has made more game-winners and impacted a team,” said Underwood. “We were a shell of ourselves the game we played without him, and he’s been absolutely as good on both ends of the court.”

Dosunmu is leading his team in points and assists for a second consecutive season. The Morgan Park product scored double-figure points in 17 of his 19 conference games and has posted nearly 20 points per game since returning from injury on February 18.

Illinois will begin its pursuit of a conference tournament title on Friday, March 13. Thanks to a double-bye, the Fighting Illini’s first game will be in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The last time Illinois won the conference tournament was 2005 — a year when they had a free pass to the quarterfinals as well.

A third matchup with Iowa could welcome Underwood’s group in Indianapolis.

“We don’t like each other. Simple as that,” said Dosunmu. “They want to kill us. We want to kill them.”

Wesner: “It’s a NEW DAY! Yes, it is!”

Wesner: “It’s a NEW DAY! Yes, it is!”

Peyton Wesner – Producer and Men’s Basketball Reporter
March 7, 2020

Producing is much like I remember from TV 1 class: a lot of work, often under-appreciated and always a challenge.

But, for all intents and purposes, I am very happy with the final look of my show, especially considering the last time I produced was two years ago.

Many events were covered in preparation. I checked out a camera to cover women’s tennis before traveling for Illinois @ Indiana in men’s basketball. I also tag teamed with Professor Erdey on Fighting Illini baseball’s home opener.

What sets my show apart from others is the story presentation. I did not settle for VOs on headlines, rather they included sound bites — making it a VO-SOT-VO. Plus, I produced and voiced my own package (Illinois’ NCAA Tournament hopes), rather than allocating responsibility elsewhere. All in all, the stories were pertinent and graphics were utilized properly (i.e. wrestling seeds for Big Ten Championships).

My contributions include the entire show. I wrote the anchor scripts, edited the b-roll and pieced together segments (minus “Shotclock with Nathan DeHaan”). A lot of credit should be given to Jake Hasan for editing “Shotclock” and I am very appreciative for his efforts.

Ultimately, we will have to see what the future of Illini Sports Night holds. I am confident in my contributions and interested to witness the changes in my colleagues’ mentality. Will anything be different? Time will only tell.

Yet, I can tell you that my effort WILL STILL be the same. That’s because Illini Sports Night is all about beyond-the-field reporting and in-depth stories. And, I will continue to do my best for Illini Sports Night. If others do not take it seriously, that’s fine because I always will.

After all, I’m treating Friday’s show like a fresh start. To quote Big E Langston, “It’s a new day! Yes, it is!” Spring break will bring a rest period and a chance to “clear the cobwebs.” When I return, I’ll be full of excitement and fresh ideas to bring you unique segments and storylines that deserve attention here at the University of Illinois.

Illini let go chance of improved seeding, falls to Ohio State

Credit: FightingIllini.com

It’s been said before, but tonight’s game against No. 19 Ohio State is the biggest game of the year. It’s clear the Illini knew what was on the line: a double-bye for next week’s Big Ten tournament and the opportunity to boost their resume on the road against a ranked opponent. The Illini couldn’t afford to come out flat but they did, losing to the Buckeyes 71-63. 

At the half, Illinois held a 37-30 lead, due in large part to the performance of Ayo Dosunmo who had 14 points on 6/8 shooting in the first half and took over the game in the final minutes of the half. He’s shown this ability before, but it’s nice to see him playing his best basketball when it matters most. Another great performance came from Andres Feliz, who had 7 points and 7 rebounds at the half. 

Dosunmo and Feliz both finished the game strong, Dosunmo finished with 21 points and Feliz had 11 rebounds to go along with 11 points, but they needed help elsewhere. The Illini stumbled out of the half and never seemed to get in a rhythm, scoring just 26 second-half points compared to the 37 they had in the first.  Credit to the Buckeyes for making adjustments on both sides of the ball as they were in control the entirety of the half, but this is a huge missed opportunity for the Illini. They still have a chance to improve their seeding for March Madness when they meet No. 18 Iowa on Sunday. A deep run in the Big Ten tournament is also vital, but neither of the next two obstacles is going to be easy. If the Illini can play a complete team-game, the possibilities are endless for them in March.

Up Next

The Illini travel back home to play Iowa, Sunday at 6 pm.

Fighting Illini Headed to Callaway

The Illini Men’s Golf Team will compete in the Inaugural Callaway Golf Next-Gen 2020 Challenge, where they’ll be put up against defending NCAA Champion Stanford on Saturday, March 21 at Rolling Hills Estates in California.

The Challenge will see the Illini go head-to-head against the Cardinals in five matches, with two additional players from each team able to come off the bench in certain situations to fill in for a teammate. The match will also feature a new Coach’s Challenge, where Illinois’ Mike Small and Stanford’s Conrad Ray can toss out a challenge flag at any point in the match. Should the coaches do so, the opposing coach himself would have to step in and hit the shot for his player.

Callaway Golf is an industry leader in distance-enhancing technologies in golf clubs and balls. Callaway developed the concept and is planning to produce a live-stream broadcast on callawaygolf.com and amateurgolf.com, while just the opening match can be found golfweek.com. Each match will be followed by a single walking camera, and all players and coaches will be mic’ed up for their entire stream.

Yesterday the Cardinals finished sixth-place at the Cabo Collegiate, where they were led by freshman Barclay Brown’s second place finish. Brown had five birdies and five bogeys yesterday afternoon. The finish is the best that the freshman has registered so far this season, shooting even-par 71s in his first and final rounds.

Meanwhile the Illini last competed on Feb. 22nd where they finished fourth at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate. The Illini were sparked by Senior Giovanni Tadiotto on Day 3, closing out the tournament with five birdies on Saturday and a season best round score of 67, launching the Illini into a final round that saw them jump from 12th into a three-way tie at six, finishing fourth as a team.

The last time these two teams saw each other in action was back at the 2019 Cypress Point Classic to close out the fall season. Hosted by Stanford, the Illini defeated both Alabama and California, but lost to UCLA in its opening match. The Cardinals would later face the Bruins for the third place trophy, but lost that match 4-2.

Illinois Baseball defeats Chicago State 11-8 in home opener

Illinois home opener against Chicago State was everything but a clean game.

Photo Credit: Fightingillini.com

The Illini struggled on the mound but did just enough to earn the win 11-8 against Chicago State.

Senior Jimmy Burnette allowed five earned runs and four walks in just 2.2 innings pitched. Sophomore pitcher Caleb Larson came in to relieve Burnette and helped carry the Illini for another 3.1 innings. Grant Leader Grant Leader and Ryan Kutt followed with one inning, respectively. And Garett Acton came in to close.

But we weren’t the worst team on the mound Tuesday evening by any means, there were four Illinois players hit by pitches (Alex Steinbach, Taylor Jackson, Andrew Dyke, and Jacob Campbell).

The Illini were tied with Chicago State 5-5 going into the 5th inning when Freshman Danny Doligale came through and singled up the middle for a two-run RBI.

Illinois shortstop Branden Comia had another great game offensively, earning a  career-high four hits, four RBIs, a single, two doubles, and triple.

The Illini had a smooth sailing last few innings to close the night.

Next, Illinois travels to Elon, North Carolina, for a weekend series.

Illinois Basketball tops Indiana for 4th Straight Win, 67-66


By Nathan DeHaan

Once again this season, Illini fans relied on Ayo Dosunmu in the late moments of a Big Ten game on Sunday afternoon and once again the Sophomore guard came through, hitting a big three pointer late and two clutch free throws with four seconds to go to lead Illinois (20-9) to a 67-66 win over longtime rival Indiana (18-11).

Sunday’s game was back-and-forth the whole way with no team gaining a larger lead than when Illinois went up seven on a Kofi Cockburn shot with 4:55 left to go. Indiana quickly fought back to make it a two point game thanks to a Trayce Jackson-Davis layup and a Devonte Green three. The game was going to come down to which team made one big play.

That play came after Jackson-Davis missed two free throws, Indiana’s first misses from the line on the day, and Indiana’s Rob Phinisee got the rebound. Phinisee then took that ball out and set up Indiana’s offense, before tripping and losing control of the ball. Illinois’ Andres Feliz dove on the floor in a heads up play and Trent Frazier quickly called a timeout for Illinois, giving the Illini the ball back up 2 with just 6 seconds left.

In the postgame press conference, Illini Head Coach Brad Underwood had one word to describe Senior guard Andres Feliz.


Dosunmu finished the job for Illinois, going 2-for-2 from the line and making a last second Phinisee 3 pointer irrelevant except for anyone that bet the under. Dosunmu ended as the game’s leading scorer with 17 points. 

Feliz added 15 points and Freshmen Center Kofi Cockburn also had 15 as well as a career-high 6 blocks. After the game Underwood talked about how excited Cockburn’s performance made him.

“You forget that he is a kid sometimes. His physical tools make it fun to go to work everyday,” Underwood lamented.

The Illini have now won four straight Big Ten games and are tied for 2nd in the Big Ten Conference with 2 games to play. Their final games of the regular season are Thursday at Ohio State and Sunday at home against Iowa.

Wesner: “I have learned and will not forget”

Wesner: “I have learned and will not forget”

Peyton Wesner – Producer and Men’s Basketball Reporter
March 2, 2020

My contributions to Mariah’s show consisted of IHSA State Wrestling Championships coverage. I have a sense of humble pride in the content produced. The Luke Odom VO-SOT-VO had a great story — the Illini commit being a life-long fan and also set to become the first member of his family to go to college. Moreover, my package on the Braunagel brothers may be one of the best narratives I’ve told during my time at the University of Illinois.

Ultimately, these stories — not to mention a behind the scenes look at Fighting Illini wrestling commit Cody Goodman for this week’s show — set a high standard for Illini Sports Night. We covered high school commits that have never suited up for Illinois. Thus, this should set a new benchmark for everyone invested in this newscast to not settle for the stories right in front of them and, obviously, pick up a camera.

Every time I check out a camera from Richmond Studio, “my shoot” gets better. My shots are more advanced and I implement adjustments to help become more effective.

As a producer, shooting is essential. If any producer allocates all of their coverage to videographers without going to games to help, then he or she is shirking their responsibilities. For instance, last Wednesday, I went with Alvaro Martinez to a women’s basketball game to help with his first sporting event. Hence, I believe in a more “hands-on” approach.

More so, and this will be discussed more in next week’s recap, you cannot count on some underclassmen to follow through. For instance, I had two videographers not cover the contest they committed to. This should not happen. It’s a bad look to Illinois’ sports information directors (SID) to make plans for coverage and no-show. I apologized profusely to the women’s tennis SID and IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN. For Illini Sports Night to grow and continue to build credibility, EVERYONE must take this seriously.

That’s because Illini Sports Night is all about beyond-the-field reporting and in-depth stories. And, I will continue to shoot as many sporting events as possible — maybe in a tag team. I’ve learned from this and will never forget. #DIY