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Illini Basketball

Bad Day for Bigs

It’s hard to miss seven feet worth of human stretched out on the floor in front of you. When I stepped on to the Crisler Center court yesterday morning, Kofi Cockburn was lying on his stomach at the Illinois bench. Fletch might have been stretching the big man’s hamstring. The expression on his face conveyed mild nausea.

credit: Vashoune Russell

It wouldn’t be the first time Kofi played through the pain. Twenty days earlier, he sprained an ankle in shootaround. He grimaced, and hopped on one foot to the sidelines before collapsing on a folding chair.

Paul Schmidt got him up and running in time for tip-off, and apart from an extra layer of orange tape peeking from his right sock, you wouldn’t have known Kofi was hurting. (If you missed Giorgi’s shout-out to Paul Schmidt in the Northwestern postgame presser, it’s worth watching again, just for the Giorgi Entertainment Value.)

Yesterday in Ann Arbor, Kofi looked pained. His default facial expression conveys monstrosity when, in fact, he’s a soft-spoken, gentle person.

So it’s hard to be sure. When your star freshman has a touch of the flu, it’s not divulged to the outside world. If Kofi was slowed by a virus, our only indication is that he looked gassed — pretty much from the opening tip.

2-of-9 field goals, 1-of-3 FTs and fouling out with only three rebounds in 30 minutes indicates something amiss.

Giorgi also had a bad shooting day, and also got in foul trouble. But he was a Little Things guy, which has become his new role lately. He should get a lot of credit for screening Ayo’s path to 27 points.

Five rebounds in 25 minutes is fewer than you’d want; but Jon Teske, Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner & Austin Davis seemed pretty motivated to change the narrative about Illini bigs after what happened in Champaign last month.

You’re an Illini fan. Therefore, you have your own Robert Archibald story.

You probably met Arch, and you probably felt personally touched by his ingratiating style. If you spent more than 30 seconds with him, you probably got a taste of his sardonic wit.

A remarkable fact about Robert Archibald is that he grew his company of friends far beyond his 1998-2002 cohort. I mentioned in 2013 that Archibald spent the Reunion of Old Soldiers with Richard Semrau, whose recruitment and (limited) career were far removed from Archibald’s era. After that, Arch befriended and hired Sam McLaurin, whose Texan construction gigs were taking a toll on his body.

The last time I saw Arch, I queried “where’s my friend Sam McLaurin?” His Architypical response: “Working … I hope.”

When Brad Underwood stepped toward the microphone for yesterday’s postgame Q&A, he didn’t need to muster any affectation to convey the somber sense of loss he felt in delivering the news to those who hadn’t heard. Robert Archibald was not simply a member of the Illini family. He was a focal point, and a rallying force of the Illini family.

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