After all we’ve been through as a fan base, we deserved a win like this. But the players deserved this win much more than the fans. They had a chance to give up earlier in the season, but they kept fighting and kept improving. Now, after knocking off then-No. 13 Maryland and No. 9 Michigan State in the span of 10 days, no team in the country is looking forward to taking on the Illini. And that’s very refreshing to think about for a change.
Ayo Dosunmu kept Illinois in this game, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Michigan State keeps the lead for good late in the second half if it wasn’t for Ayo and his heroics. Dosunmu posted a team-high 24 points, along with 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, and a full highlight reel.
Trent Frazier and Dosunmu appear to have finally figured out how to play in such a way that each complements the abilities of the other. Frazier recorded 15 points, 2 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals. It’s been a long time coming, but Frazier’s post-game comment that he and Dosunmu form the best back court duo in the nation suddenly doesn’t sound too far-fetched.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili played well again, and held his own in the paint against Xavier Tillman and Kenny Goins. Giorgi scored 16 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, all on the defensive glass. His post moves are not only advanced for a freshman, but are also some of the best we’ve seen in Champaign in some time from any player regardless of age.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili pic.twitter.com/MIOdcwD9A2— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) February 6, 2019
No Illini players had a truly bad game, as Kipper Nichols appears to be coming out of his funk, and players like Andres Feliz and Adonis De La Rosa are starting to have greater impacts on games. The defensive effort across the board was also fantastic, and blocks from Aaron Jordan and Kipper Nichols were critical, while the guards were able to frustrate Cassius Winston, causing him to commit 9 turnovers.
The refs were looking to call some fouls in this game, and Illinois took the brunt of it. Illinois committed 21 personal fouls to the Spartans’ 18. No Illini fouled out, though Giorgi and Trent Frazier came close with 4 fouls each. Brad Underwood’s squad was aggressive Tuesday, which no doubt contributed to the plethora of fouls, but it also prevented Michigan State from executing its offensive game plan for much of the evening.
Without a doubt, Dan Dakich earns the only ugly moment of the night with this call.
I don’t necessarily hold that against Dakich, since that is largely the way this story has played out over the past five years, especially during the John Groce era. Illinois would play well for a while, but once the opponent wakes up, the Illini can’t figure out how to respond.
Brad Underwood and Co. flipped the script against Michigan State — and hopefully for good.
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