A 7 pm ET tip-off time. A sea of orange and blue. Illinois basketball is less than a week away from their season opener against the Evansville Aces at the State Farm Center in Urbana-Champaign. Tonight provided a glimpse at the possibilities of various lineups that Coach Underwood could employ throughout the season. The starting 5 of
G Ayo Dosunmu (Fr.)
G Trent Frazier (Soph.)
G Aaron Jordan (Sr.)
F Kipper Nichols (Jr.)
F Giorgi Bezhanishvilli (Fr.)
got off to a strong start start tonight. In fact, this team could be the most entertaining team that the Illini have had since the 2012-2013 Illini squad.
What We Learned
Well these early exhibition games never really tell us too much about either team because each team is still learning the X’s and O’s of their system. From the Illini’s point of view, I think it is very clear that they will continue to employ Brad Underwood’s pressure defense that was used last year. Coach Underwood also looks like he wants to his press to a full-court press which proved to be very helpful tonight.
Next, I thought a lot of performances stood out tonight. Firstly, sophomore guard Trent Frazier didn’t miss a beat tonight and was second on the Illini in scoring with 19 PTS on 6 of 9 shooting and he chippped in with 5 AST. Frazier almost won B1G Ten Freshman of the Year last year and it wouldn’t surprsise me if he has an even better season this year. Secondly, junior guard Andres Feliz looked really really good and had many moments that proved why he was the #1 JUCO point guard in the 2018 class. He finished the game as the Illini’s leading scorer with 20 PTS. If he can continue this production throughout this season, he can really help take the pressure off of Trent Frazier. Lastly, I loved the way that freshman big man Giorgi Bezhanishvilli played tonight. Yes, I know he got into foul trouble but when he was on the court, he brought energy to this team that I haven’t seen a big man provide the Illini in a very long time. He added 9 PTS on 2 of 4 shooting and 4 rebounds. Bezhanishvilli also has an incredible skill-set where he has great vision, is capable of knocking down threes with ease, and being able to finish around the rim. This is going to serve him well as this season goes on and it’ll be difficult for Coach Underwood to keep him off the court. There were other good performances from players such as freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu (13 PTS) , sophomore guard Da’Monte Williams (1 point, 4 rebounds, 3 AST, and three charges), and senior guard Aaron Jordan (9 PTS and 7 Rebounds) but those three performances stood out the most to me.
The Illinois Fighting Illini will officially get their 2018-2019 basketball season underway against the Evansville Aces on Thursday November 8 at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. in the Maui On The Mainland game.