It may not be the turning point, but the Illini just won their biggest game in years in the Big Apple.
Illinois hasn’t won a Big Ten road game against a ranked opponent since March 2014, but the Illini did just enough on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden to take down the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins, 78-67. The newcomers came up huge for the Illini in the victory, including a coming-out party for Tevian Jones.
Freshman phenom Ayo Dosunmu showed the Big Apple just why he’s been all over NBA Mock Drafts recently. The Chicago native ended the first half with nine consecutive points to draw the Illini within a couple baskets of the Terrapins heading into the break. He’d finish with 20 points and six assists.
And in the second half it was all Tevian Jones and Andres Feliz. The freshman Jones hasn’t seen the floor much this season, but he made his minutes on Saturday afternoon count. His 18 points (4-of-9 from behind the arc) and four rebounds gave the Illini a much-needed spark in the second period, eventually retaking the lead from the Terrapins.
Feliz had a fairly quiet first half, but got things rolling with about 15 minutes to go. His ability to finish over larger defenders allowed him to knock down some tough lay-ups, tallying 15 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
It was Maryland’s dynamic duo of Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando that kept the Terrapins close throughout. The pair would combine for 37 points and 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the upset-minded Illini.
Illinois has struggled this season between a difficult non-conference schedule (Maui, Georgetown, Notre Dame) and a slow start (1-7) to league play. The Illini have desperately been searching for a win that would help them turn the corner. After the showing from Jones, Dosunmu and Feliz, it’s clear that the team has weapons, but it needs to be consistent. This is the type of victory that can change the culture for a program. We’ll see how the Illini respond in the next few conference games, however, with the first coming at Minnesota on Wednesday.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Ayo Dosunmu, my sun and my stars, moon of my life— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) January 26, 2019
Illinois with only one turnover, the lowest in a half this season.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) January 26, 2019
Previous low was two in the first half against Wisconsin last game. https://t.co/3BPbttfjxN
Career highs in points, three-pointers and minutes made for freshman Tevian Jones.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) January 26, 2019
MOMENTS THAT MATTER
- After freshman Tevian Jones knocked down back-to-back three pointers to open the half, Trent Frazier poured in another to give the Illini their first lead since shortly after tip.
- With the game on the line, Feliz swished a pair of free throws to solidify Illinois’ lead and its biggest upset in recent memory.
The Illini will look to make it two Big Ten wins in a row next Wednesday when they travel to Minnesota. The Gophers were Illinois’ first conference win of the year, and the Illini will look to complete the sweep at The Barn.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CT.
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