The Fighting Illini basketball team earned their third overall Big Ten Tournament title, and their first title since 2005 in a 91-88 overtime victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Illini were led by 16 points apiece from Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbelo. Da’Monte Williams added 13 points on a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili added 12 points and six rebounds.
The Fighting Illini stormed out of the gates, building a 17-point lead with 9:45 to go in the first period. Cockburn (above) was a dominating presence early, scoring 11 points in the first half, and Da’Monte Williams was on fire from behind the arc, shooting a perfect three-for-three in the first period. Ohio State went on a run of their own at the end of the first half, making it a five-point game heading into halftime.
The game tightened in the second half despite the Illini holding a narrow lead throughout the second period. Bezhanishvili exploded in the second period, scoring 12 and giving the juice to the Illini. Justice Sueing of Ohio State made an and-one layup to tie the game at 77 with :23 seconds remaining, but Cockburn couldn’t get the put-back from a Dosunmu three and the game headed to overtime.
In overtime, Curbelo got the scoring started with a pullup jumper to put the Illini ahead. After a pair of free throws by Ohio State and a layup put the Buckeyes ahead by one, Cockburn hit a pair of free throws and the Illini never looked gave up the lead again. Curbelo scored four straight points on a pullup jumper and two free throws, and a Cockburn free throw and two pairs of charity line visits from Dosunmu and Williams iced the game and the tournament championship for the Illini.
The Illini added 41 points from their bench from Curbelo (16), Williams (13), Bezhanishvili (12), Miller (5), and Grandison (3). This was the most points scored from the Illinois bench since the Illini had 36 bench points in a blowout win over NC A&T.
Ayo Dosunmu was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 Big Ten Tournament. He heads into the NCAA Tournament averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Cockburn was also named to the All-Tournament team as selected by the media.