Last season, Illinois’ basketball team won the Big Ten’s conference tournament and earned a No. 1 seed. Aside from a second round loss to Loyola Chicago at the NCAA Tournament, the Fighting Illini were clearly one of the best teams in the country.
But they still didn’t win the Braggin’ Rights game with Missouri, something they’ll get a chance to avenge Wednesday night when the teams convene in St. Louis.
The schools flipped a coin for home-court advantage last season and the Tigers won that. Then they won the game 81-78, helping them launch a successful season that saw them earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Missouri will need this victory to avoid a .500 run-up into its Southeastern Conference schedule. The Tigers (6-5) are coming off an 83-75 home win Saturday over Utah, but have eaten non-conference defeats to less prestigious programs like Kansas City and Liberty.
They also lost by 37 in the renewal of their old Big 12 rivalry with Kansas on Dec. 11. It was little wonder that coach Cuonzo Martin was thrilled to see his team show resilience against the Utes.
“Great job for this team bouncing back to get a win,” he said. “We did a good job improving things, addressing things and we continue to improve.”
Kobe Brown led Missouri with a career-high 27 points on just 11 field-goal attempts, thanks to 11-of-13 foul shooting.
Meanwhile, Illinois (8-3) set a single-game school record with 18 3-point hits Saturday in a 106-48 destruction of St. Francis (Pa.). Center Kofi Cockburn scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison combined to can nine 3-pointers.
“That’s the way we’re designed, man,” Cockburn said to the Champaign News-Gazette. “We’re designed with really, really elite shooters. It’s incredible, man.”
Cockburn is averaging 21.4 points and 11.9 rebounds since serving an NCAA-imposed three-game suspension to start the season.
This will be the 52nd matchup between the programs. Illinois leads the all-time series 32-19, but the teams have split the last 10 games.
–Field Level Media