What a breath of fresh air.
Watching this team play Saturday was just so refreshing and enjoyable. As a team, they looked calm, confident, and capable. We’ve all known that this team has talent, but recent games haven’t always looked like this one, especially away from home. This win was truly a team effort, but a few Illini players really stood out.
Ayo Dosunmu: A
The freshman guard led Illinois with 20 points and also recorded 6 assists, 2 steals and a block. His defense has improved significantly, and he is quickly turning into a dominant player. As he continues to play well against the best teams in the Big Ten, he’s also beginning to look more and more like a NBA Draft pick. Regardless of what Ayo ultimately decides regarding his future, he’s been a very fun player to watch during an otherwise gloomy season.
The low fives with invisible teammates after the technical free throw also made me smirk, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
LOL Ayo getting some love from his teammates. pic.twitter.com/r2tcvDUe5B— Robert (@ALionEye) January 26, 2019
Tevian Jones: A-
Now that he’s had a few games under his belt, Tevian Jones is finally starting to show his full capabilities. He finished the game with a line of 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals, in his best performance of the season so far. His athleticism and shooting abilities were both on full display against Maryland.
Tevian’s play against Maryland really started to remind me of a young Malcolm Hill, who also turned the corner along with Kendrick Nunn about halfway through his freshman season. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jones can do during the rest of the way.
Andres Feliz: A-
Feliz made some great plays against Maryland, and also seems to be starting to grasp Brad Underwood’s system. He finished with 15 points, to go along with 6 rebounds (season high), 3 steals (season high), and 2 assists. Picking up 6 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 guard against a team with one of the best front courts in the country speaks to Feliz’s athleticism, which was on full display. He also only registered one personal foul, which shows that he understands how to play aggressive defense and generate turnovers without putting the opposing team on the line.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili: C
Giorgi didn’t play his best game today, as he fouled out while only registering 6 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds on the afternoon. That said, matching up with Bruno Fernando is no easy task for any freshman big man. His contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet, and his energy has no doubt been one of the keys to keeping this team motivated despite many recent losses.
It’s been several years since the Illini defeated a ranked team, but this wasn’t just a fluke win over a fringe-ranked team. Soundly beating No. 13 Maryland on a neutral court (that was more pro-Maryland than neutral) is a serious accomplishment and a statement win. Brad Underwood and his players deserve to enjoy this victory, and I’m looking forward to seeing if they can keep up the momentum by sweeping Minnesota on Wednesday.
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