Illinois Basketball: 3 ways the Illini can beat Penn State

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CHAMPAIGN, IL – FEBRUARY 11: Xavier Tillman #23 and Gabe Brown #44 of the Michigan State Spartans defend against the shot of Kofi Cockburn #21 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center on February 11, 2020 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

1. Kofi needs to be a rebounding machine

The rise of Kofi Cockburn was immediate. He came onto the scene so strong that a lot of people thought he could be a one-and-done. But, lately, Kofi’s game has come back down to earth a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, Kofi is still putting up big numbers. He is just coming off a double-double in the last game against Rutgers. His production is still there. But he is going to need to be on-point against Penn State this Tuesday.

The rebounding battle will be interesting to watch. Illinois averages 40 rebounds per game, which ranks No. 16 in the nation. A big reason the Illini are one of the best teams in the nation at rebounding is due to the fact Kofi is averaging nine rebounds per game. Penn State isn’t far behind the Orange and Blue in rebounding, though.

The Nittany Lions average 39 rebounds per game, which ranks No. 31 in the nation. While Kofi is bigger than anything Penn State has on the court, that doesn’t always translate into more rebounds. The two big rebounders for the Nittany Lions are Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens.

Watkins averages eight rebounds per game but only checks in at 6-foot-9. He plays like he is 6-foot-11, though. He is an experienced senior who can pull down the boards. Stevens is only 6-foot-8, but he still averages 6.8 rebounds per game. His athletic ability is what prevails for him. He can fly around the court to get the ball.

Fending off these two is going to be important for Kofi on Tuesday. Penn State has the ability to rebound with the best teams in the nation. Hopefully, Kofi can be a rebounding machine so the Illini can come away with a win.

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