Kofi Cockburn, Illini dump Irish in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Kofi Cockburn scored 28 points Monday as Illinois topped Notre Dame 82-72 in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup at Champaign, Ill.Cockburn, coming off a career-high, 38-point effort Friday in the Illini’s win over Texas Rio Grande Valley, was dominant again in this one. He made 11 of 16 shots against the Fighting Irish and is shooting 75.6 percent (34 of 45) from the field over his past three games.Alfonso Plummer chipped in 21 points and Cockburn added eight rebounds as Illinois (5-2) won its third straight game.Notre Dame (3-3) attempted to rally from a 16-point, second-half deficit but still lost for the third time in four outings. Freshman Blake Wesley led the Fighting Irish with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, while Dane Goodwin scored 15 points and Nate Laszewski contributed 13.Plummer knocked down a 3-pointer about four minutes into the second half to put Illinois ahead by 13, and Jacob Grandison’s trey two minutes later gave the Illini their largest lead at 59-43.Notre Dame then began chipping away, closing within 10 on Wesley’s 3-pointer midway through the half and clawing within five on Cormac Ryan’s 3-pointer with 5:55 left. The Fighting Irish still trailed by five with three minutes to go, but Plummer made eight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.The teams were tied five times in the first half with the final deadlock coming at 18-18. The Illini’s RJ Melendez hit a 3-pointer shortly thereafter, and Illinois gradually started to gain some separation.