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Illinois survives Grand Canyon to open road trip, 83-71

Illinois is 2-0.

Kelsea Garthoff/

Phoenix, Ariz. — Road trip is off to a good start.

Illinois survived another second half run to pull away in Phoenix in a 83-71 win over Grand Canyon on Friday night. Now the Illini have to finish off their west coast swing Sunday night against a ranked Arizona team.

But first the Illini had to go to business with the Antelopes, where the teams were toe-to-toe early on. It was clear that head coach Brad Underwood had made adjustments after the near-loss to Nicholls State. Illinois (2-0) had struggled to drive to the net against the Colonels, but found early success cutting inside against GCU.

But the turnover fairy continued to plague the Illini in the first half, as they tried to force the ball inside to both Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanshivili. Ayo Dosunmu struggled scoring around the perimeter scoring only two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the opening 20 minutes. Despite Dosunmu’s struggles, senior Andres Feliz continued to establish himself as premier point guard, scoring 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting before the break.

Illinois finished the first half on top, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the second half that the Illini pulled away. A turnover then three from Ayo Dosunmu set an early tone in the second half at the Antelopes’ raucous arena.

Yet, history repeated itself as Grand Canyon (0-2), like Nicholls State, went on a late run — this one of the 14-6 variety — in the second half to make the contest tight.

Except the Illini didn’t fall for it this time. Feliz and Cockburn took over in a winning effort that is sure to leave the coaching staff with a better feeling in their stomachs after just getting by Nicholls State.

But, at least we’re not Northwestern. Who lost to Merrimack.

Moments That Mattered

  • Hot Start to the second half: Two big threes from Dosunmu and Griffin set the tone for the second half. Dosunmu hit his three after a Grand Canyon turnover to put the Illini up by double-digits. Griffin hit his after the Antelopes pulled with in 12 points. Illinois will need more production from the backcourt duo all season.
  • Turnovers: Illinois has started the season off with back-to-back games of at least 15 turnovers. The Illini continued to force the ball down low to Giorgi and Kofi. Underwood needs to stress the importance of moving the ball around to find opening down low. There is too much pressure on the guards to force the ball down low. Instead the Illini need to focus on driving to the net, then dishing to the center down low.

You Gotta See This

This is what Underwood wants to see, scoring fast with plenty of ball movement.

Tweet of the Game

Who’s Next

Illinois will continue its road trip in Arizona when it takes on No. 21 Arizona in Tucson on Sunday. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 8 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.