Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn accidentally punched a referee on the head and knocked him unconscious after scoring during the Fighting Illini's upset over Michigan.
The inadvertent contact came with about three minutes remaining in Illinois' 71-62 triumph Wednesday at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. Illinois led 64-54 when Cockburn caught a deflection after a missed shot.
The 7-foot, 290-pound center crouched in the paint before elevating to prepare for a dunk. He instead tossed the ball through the net, giving his squad a 12-point advantage. Cockburn was also fouled on the play. He celebrated the hoop and foul call by turning and throwing his right arm forward.
Referee Lewis Garrison happened to be in the area after the play. Cockburn's fist drilled Garrison on the head, forcing the referee to bend over and grab the area. Cockburn and several of his teammates helped Garrison get back on his feet. Illinois spokesman Derrick Burson said the referee was briefly unconscious before being cleared on site.
Garrison was taken to a hospital as a safety precaution.
"I'm a really emotional guy," Cockburn told reporters. "We've lost the last couple of close games and that just me being passionate, I hit him and I feel bad. I went and told him after the game that I was sorry. He didn't seem mad at me."
Cockburn had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in the win.
"He's very strong on the inside," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said of Cockburn. "Very physical guy and one of the best offensive rebounders in NCAA basketball."
Ayo Dosunmu had 14 points and Andrew Feliz had 13 points in the win. Giorgi Bezhanishvili added 12 points for Illinois. Joe Teske led the Wolverines with 16 points.