Giorgi B. - on both ends!
We all knew Giorgi could score, which he did again on Thursday night (13 points on 6-of-9 shooting), but who knew he could play a little defense too? He has had some good possessions here and there this season, but overall he hasn’t been a rim protector (not that we thought he would be).
On Thursday, he finished the game with a career-high four blocks and really impressed on the defensive end of the floor. In addition, he had seven boards, three of which came on the offensive end. Nice work, Giorgi.
Now, he did have some bad shots, but going 6-of-9 is still pretty darn efficient. I’ll give him some leeway on that.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili pic.twitter.com/ZIkn1TIKg9— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) February 15, 2019
Grinding it out down the stretch
A big reason Illinois was 4-14 in conference last year was the team’s inability to finish games. (See vs. Maryland and vs. Iowa) But this year, it appears they may have begun to grow out of that a bit. Illinois led by just three at halftime, and the game was close from wire-to-wire. Even when some serious scoring droughts or poor defense occurred, the Illini did not back down.
Trent Frazier had a lot to do with this, and Andres Feliz had a pair of huge back-to-back baskets to keep Illinois from falling behind. Oh, and have you heard of Ayo Dosunmu?
More clutch shooting
Seriously, Ayo, do not leave us. After another clutch basket to help seal a Big Ten win, it feels like each game Ayo becomes more likely to leave for the NBA Draft. I’m not a scout by trade, so I’ll leave the evaluating up to them.
When the Illini needed it most, Ayo came through. Also, did you see that big pass from Trent to Feliz? That’s just good basketball, folks. I’m glad it’s back.
Honorable mention: Defense
Aside from some questionable fouling, the defense played pretty well. Holding OSU to 56 points its good, and getting 18 turnovers is great. Fouling out Kaleb Wesson? That’s just icing on the cake.
Three-Point Shooting/Free Throws
Overall, the Illini shot pretty well from the field, hitting 24-of-54 shots (44.4%). That includes going 6-of-21 from beyond the arc (28.6%). The Illini can’t win a lot of ball games when they shoot like that from the outside, or when they make 9-of-17 free throws compared to 20-of-25 from Ohio State.
I would love to see the free throws trend in a positive direction over the last six games of the regular season.
I know Underwood’s system, at this stage at least, is prone to a lot of fouls. But MY GOD, we are not going to keep winning games when we are making silly fouls all over the place. I saw some very unnecessary fouls tonight from Trent, Alan and Aaron in separate cases.
Alan’s was less meaningful, coming in the first half, but one Trent had on a back cut was just silly.
Underwood needs to keep the guys moving in the right direction as they have the past eight games or so and be a bit more disciplined on those back-cuts.
Well, the whole game, really
I’m not going to be the fan to complain about a win, and I will not complain about our first one in Columbus since 2009. Yes, you read that correctly. Ten years. I was not even in high school 10 years ago, how sad is that?
I always text a couple close friends of mine during Illini basketball games, and one of them aptly described the game as “gross.” That it was. The last three minutes or so of the first half and a good five-minute stretch in the second half had some pretty ugly basketball. Turnovers, loose balls, bad fouls, and plenty of missed free throws were present.
But I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day, as they say.
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