Besides Ayo Dosunmu, one of the freshmen on Illinois’ roster this season was certainly bound to step up and stand out early on.
Giorgi B.’s had his moments, and Tevian Jones has played some defense, but Alan Griffin is suddenly doing it all.
Griffin had a big first half, but a worn-out Illini team — on the court for the second time in 15 hours after falling to No. 3 Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational Quarterfinals and in foul trouble — fell to Iowa State, 84-68, on Tuesday afternoon at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii. Illinois will face Xavier in the seventh-place game on Wednesday.
Griffin led the Illini (1-3) with 11 first-half points on 4-of-5 from the field (2-of-3 from three) and added two rebounds and a steal, assisting Illinois in another foul-heavy half. Giorgi Bezhanishvili picked up two early fouls, earning him a seat on the bench for the half’s final 16 minutes, with Trent Frazier joining him after picking up his second foul midway through the period.
But the New York native Griffin, who scored just 10 points over Illinois’ first three games this season, provided the spark off the bench amidst another slow start for Brad Underwood’s team.
Illinois tallied just nine points over the first seven minutes against the Cyclones (4-1), converting on just three three-pointers. But Iowa State could not capitalize on Illinois’ offensive struggles, with the game tied at 10 nearly halfway through the half.
The Illini took their first lead of the afternoon when Griffin converted on a putback on dunk on Trent Frazier’s missed layup, pushing Illinois ahead, 12-10. From there, Griffin and senior Aaron Jordan took over, scoring 22 of Illinois’ 39 first-half points, en route to a 39-34 lead.
Illinois’ offense shut down again during the start of the second half as Iowa State went on an 18-4 run out of the break — even with star big man Marial Shayok benched with four fouls. The Illini missed their first eight three-point attempts, leading to easy buckets in transition for the Cyclones, especially freshman Talen Horton-Tucker.
Horton-Tucker, who’s recruitment finished between Illinois and Iowa State, finished with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 14 rebounds.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A New Clock: Frazier missed a floater toward the end of the shot clock during Illinois’ second-half drought, and Bezhanishvili tipped it back to hit the rim, but the referees initially called for the shot clock’s expiration.
Upon review, Illinois received a new possession, which ended with a Frazier three to cut the deficit to 52-46.
Giorgi B.’s Flagrant: Just seconds after Frazier’s three, Bezhanishvili was charged with his fourth foul — a flagrant on a hooking call — which sent him to the bench again, forcing Illinois to play with a small lineup.
Iowa State sunk four free throws on the ensuing possession, extending its lead to 10.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Halftime observations:— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 20, 2018
-Zion Williamson is good
-Zion Williamson plays for Duke
-Duke is good
-Mike Krzyzyzxki coaches Duke
-Mike Krzyzyzxki is good
-Tua Tagovailoa is also good
-We are now an ESPN affiliate
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Entering Tuesday’s game, Illinois’ defense led the nation in turnover rate, forcing turnovers 29.2 percent of opponent possessions.
Illinois will look to end the Maui Invitational on a higher note in the seventh-place game versus Xavier on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.