Illinois hoops star Kofi Cockburn was TRYING to celebrate after hitting a crucial shot Wednesday -- but accidentally clocked the ref in the face instead with a BRUTAL elbow.
In fact, the ref immediately dropped to his knees -- and was HOSPITALIZED for further treatment.
Cockburn -- 7'0", 290 lbs -- had just hit a put-back floater (and got the foul) in the 2nd half against Michigan ... and tried to celebrate with a big Tiger Woods-styled fist pump.
But, ref Lewis Garrison accidentally got in the way ... and took a BIG elbow right to the face.
Garrison dropped to his knees and had to be helped off the floor ... and after trainers checked him out at the stadium, he reportedly went to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Thankfully, doesn't seem Garrison's injuries are too serious ... it's reported the trip to the emergency room was for precautionary reasons -- but still, scary stuff!!
As for the game, Cockburn ended up leading Illinois to a huge 71-62 win over the Wolverines -- a massive upset.
Unclear how the team celebrated the victory ... but we're hoping the guys were a little more careful before they got rowdy!!!