It shocking to say, but it turns out Rutgers Basketball might be....not bad? The Knights gave Illinois all it could handle in a tough back-and-forth high scoring affair.
But it wasn’t enough to stop the Giorgi Bezhanishvili show in a 99-94 Illinois victory in overtime, where the Illini were able to complete the sweep over their three-game homestand. Giorgi had the best game for an Illini big man in recent memory, scoring a career-high 35 points and setting the new freshman single-game scoring record for Illinois.
It was a dominating performance in the second half and overtime for the Georgian that nobody expect anything from coming into this season. Rutgers had no answers for our most happy, energetic, post-you-up son.
Illinois started off the first half flying hitting some dunks and playing at the face pace that fans and Brad Underwood loves. Aarong Jordan even dunked to put the Illini up 17-10! Aaron Jordan!
But then, Rutgers got into the game. The Scarlet Knights hit some tough shots and and started to use their size advantage inside and attacked the Illini’s suspect pick and roll defense. Illinois was struggling on offense in half court, which limited the transitions opportunities the Illini took great advantage of early.
Rutgers then ended the half on a 16-6 run to take a 45-42 lead into the showers.
The back-and-forth high-scoring game continued in the second half with neither team able to extend its lead to over 3 points until Illinois took a 5-point lead with just under 11 minutes to go.
Rutgers’ size continued to give Illinois issues and Illinois turned to Adonis De La Rosa to combat it, and he provided a spark for the Illini off the bench getting to the line a few times. All the while, the usually foul-adverse Ayo Dosunmu picked up his fourth foul with just over 12 minutes left in the game forcing him to the bench.
Then the Giorgi show started. Starting from 10:49 in the second half until 1:57 when Aaron Jordan hit a three, Giorgi scored 15 straight points for the Illini and carried the team on his back in one of the best single-man performances for Illinois basketball we’ve seen in a long time.
Giorgi scored 29 points on 12-13 shooting in the second half and overtime. Rutgers tried several different coverages against Giorgi and several different defenders. It was all pointless. They couldn’t stop Giorgi. They couldn’t even contain him. The Orange Krush was chanting his name.
We don’t deserve this man. Protect him at all cost.
Rutgers was able to keep it close all half with a deadly efficient offense. Ron Harper Jr. hit a shot with 10 seconds left to send it to OT.
All credit to Rutgers in this game. They played fantastic on offense. They weren’t having any trouble breaking the Illini press and were deadly efficient in this game shooting 55.6% from the field, killing Illinois in the paint. Caleb McConnell had a career-high 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting with Montez Mathis, Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. all scoring 15+.
In overtime, Rutgers got the first two baskets, but a Trent Frazier three and a Giorgi layup put the Illini back up one. A McConnell jumper was then followed up by a 6-0 Illini run with four of the points from who else? Giorgi. Erect his statue now.
Andres Feliz hit some free throws and that was all. Giorgi’s historic day leads to the third straight win for the illini and 4 out of the last 5. After where this team was earlier in the season, it’s almost hard to believe where they are now.
But today is about one man. Giorgi Bezhanishvili. One of the best single man performances I’ve seen for the Illini. I love this man.