The Illinois Fighting Illini were not
playing their best game but freshman sensation Giorgi Bezhanishvili
put the team on his shoulders. However, when he fouled out with:
17.1 seconds to play in regulation, I thought that was all she
wrote. And then when the game drifted into overtime I thought the
fat lady was warming up. And then when Northwestern’s Aaron Falzon
made a 3 from the corner I figured it was all over but the crying.
But I was wrong. That’s why the LDN pays me top dollar to give you
loyal readers keen college basketball insights! My top insight for
the night: find a way...hang in there and maybe you’ll get lucky.
The Illini did and maybe got a win that looked like it had slipped
Bezhanishvili may have even said it better than the LDN. When asked
in the post game presser as to when he was confident that Illinois
could emerge with the victory he said, “After the buzzer!” I don’t
think we can even be more profound than that! But when you couple
intense hustle with hard work and throw in a bounce or two that goes
your way, you survive to play another day. That’s exactly what the
Illini did by bouncing the Cats last night.
Bezhanishvili was doing all he could to advance the Illini on a
night when shots just didn’t seem to go in. All he did was score the
first 14 points of the game for Illinois [by the way, his 26 points
tied the Illini freshman record for points in a BTT game that was
held by Demetri McCamey]. His moves, his amazing footwork, and his
plethora of different types of shots left the Wildcats bewildered
and unamused. Trent Frazier, who had been in a searching mode the
last few games, found his beautiful touch and stroke and finished
the late night with 21 points and hit some really big shots down the
[to top of second column]
As good as those two players were for the Illini, Andres Feliz
stole the show. Logging his first career double double with 11
points and 10 rebounds, Feliz even deserved a better fate. From
our vantage point, it appeared that he got roughed up on at
least two late plays that confusingly ended up as no-calls.
Leave it to Illinois to play TV ratings games lulling viewers to
their sets by keeping scores close and leaving them in doubt
longer than they’d like.
After Bezhanishvili fouled out and the game went to overtime,
you wondered if Illinois would have enough of a presence to
survive the extra session. Without a true post in the game, the
Illini guards took over. Besides Feliz’ great play, both Frazier
and Dosunmu both hit big shots to put the Cats away.
With Illinois’ 74-69 win the Illini will move on to play Iowa
tonight at 8:30pm. Who cares whether the Illini use skill or
luck to make it through another round?
[By JEFF MAYFIELD
with photo by Greg Taylor]
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