The Illini came out firing in Tucson. Trent Frazier broke out of his mini two-game shooting slump to start the game, Kofi introduced himself to high major basketball and Ayo Dosunmu took over at the end of the half.
But the turnovers and fatigue caught up with the Orange and Blue as Sean Miller’s new trio of freshmen put on a show and nearly outscored the Illini with 62 points between the three.
It was closer than the final score looked for most of the game. Outside of Michigan State, Arizona may be the best team the Illini face all year. And Nico Mannion may be the best player that suits up on the other end.
The Turnovers are a Problem
The Illini turned it over 22 times on Sunday. Feliz had seven (!!) and Dosunmu had five. In its three games, Illinois has turned it over 61 times, good for 20+ per game. That’s seven more than its average from a year ago. Dosunmu and Feliz have to be better. 5+ turnover games just aren’t acceptable.
But the big guys also need to clean it up. Cockburn and Bezhanishvili are both averaging three turnovers per game in the early going. Giorgi needs to clean up the passes on the high-low action and Kofi needs to be better about keeping the ball high if he receives a lob or grabs an offensive rebound. The defenders only shot at stopping those guys on offense is to poke at the ball.
Nico Mannion is Nasty
Maaaaaaaaan, he’s good. I had heard the hype but wasn’t going to buy in until I saw him in this one. I’ve bought in. He likes to chirp and has an attitude about him, but he’s good enough to get away with it. Mannion had 23 points, nine assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes.
Arizona PG Nico Mannion put on a show in McKale Center last night in front of over 30 NBA scouts: 23 PTS and 9 AST on 15 shots. Made some impressive reads off the dribble and scored from all 3 levels. Plays with such a confidence and poise for his age. Natural change of pace. pic.twitter.com/M8bc8rBpVN— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) November 11, 2019
This Nico Mannion pass showcases his special vision bc even though it looks like a crowded space, he’s passing “where the defense isn’t” (an old Bobby Knight tenet). He recognizes no one on D is eyeing his target, enabling him to thread the needle. pic.twitter.com/f238hFlIrw— Adam Stanco (@NaismithLives) November 11, 2019
He already has every move in the bag on offense. He can speed up and slow down, hit the contested three and the mid-range floater. He’s absolutely terrifying to watch if he’s up against your favorite team. Illinois had no answer for him defensively, but I don’t think many teams will. Ayo played a nice game on both ends and shut him down a little bit to start the second half, but Nico won this duel easily. That was one of the most impressive performances from a college guard I’ve seen in a long time.
They’ve finally fixed the uniforms
It’s about time.
After debuting the new white threads without the two tone font I was hoping they would have something new on the road jerseys as well. They’ve finally put “Fighting Illini” back on the jerseys like we’ve been asking for! And the lack of trim matches the football uniforms. Looks like we’ve finally found that #BrandSynergy.
What’s Wrong with Giorgi?
He started the game off with a three which puts him at 3-of-4 on the young season, which is encouraging. That’s a big step in his development.
The issue is everything else outside of that has been pretty lackluster. With Kofi’s dominance down low he is going to steal most of the post touches away from Giorgi on offense. Without as many shots and touches this year, Giorgi is going to have to adjust and get comfortable in his new role, and we are experiencing the growing pains.
As we already mentioned he’s been too careless with the ball and already has nine turnovers on the year, which is simply too many for your starting four.
And most importantly, the biggest issue from his freshman year still remains: the fouls.
Giogi fouled out again Sunday night in only 21 minutes. This comes after fouling out against Grand Canyon in only 17 minutes. He has picked up 13 fouls in three games which is not an encouraging start. The Illini need Giorgi to stay out of foul trouble so Kofi Cockburn doesn’t have to play 33 minutes a game and be out there huffing and puffing down the stretch a-la Joel Embiid. Jermaine Hamlin really isn’t quite ready yet for rotation minutes, so it’s vital that Giorgi be able to play 25 minutes a game without having to worry about how many fouls he has.
The Pac-12 Network is full of cowards
First of all, the broadcast team was bigger homers than the GCU crew from Friday night.
Secondly, they didn’t even show a second of the highlight package from 2005. Disgraceful. Have some integrity.
They didn’t even bother to mention it until there was about seven minutes to play with Arizona up by 15 and the color commentator said “Arizona fans aren’t gonna like to hear this, but they know after 15 years ago that this game is far from over...”. But then the good company man that was the play-by-play announcer got them back on track.
That’s okay, we’ll run all of the highlights on next year’s return trip on BTN.