INDIANAPOLIS – It was a moment that was eight years in the making for Illinois basketball and their fans.
So it was great that the Illini made sure to put on a show after such a long way away from the NCAA Tournament.
Just as they have for the last month-and-a-half, Brad Underwood’s top-seeded Illinois team was in control of their first round NCAA Tournament game against Drexel for most of the afternoon. They grabbed an 18-point halftime lead then blew it open to as much as 30 points in a 78-49 victory at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
It’s the first NCAA Tournament victory since March 22, 2013 when they defeated Colorado in the first round. After this victory, Illinois now awaits the winner of the game between eighth-seeded Loyola and ninth-seeded Georgia Tech.
Four Illinois starters reached double digits in points with Kofi Cockburn leading the way with 18 points. Ayo Dosunmu delievered another double-double in his first NCAA Tournament game, scoring 17 points while getting ten rebounds and six assists. Trent Frazier scored 11 points with Adam Miller getting ten while Andre Curbelo got eight points along with five assists.
Drexel managed to hang for a healthy part of the first half, staying within six points as late as 5:44 to go in the first half. But Illinois would outscore the Dragons 18-6 to finish the half to grab an 18-point lead at the break.
In the second half, the Illini blew it open, increasing the lead to 31 on a layup Miller with 13:23 left. The momentum continued as Illinois shot 57 percent from the floor while also holding Drexel to just 30 percent shooting from the floor.
This was a happy return for the Illini after nearly a decade away from the “Big Dance,” and they were more than ready for the moment.