The Illinois basketball team went down to the final minute with Georgetown on Tuesday night.
The Hoyas (3-0, 0-0) led by one with 40 seconds to play when guard James Akinjo got fouled after hitting a floater. Akinjo made the free throw, and Illinois (1-1, 0-0) failed to score on the ensuing possession. Georgetown eventually sealed the win, 88-80.
“You have to give Georgetown a lot of credit,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “They made every play when they needed to make it. They got to 50-50 balls, rebounded, and some of the plays they made were huge in giving them second opportunities.”
Each team averaged over one point per possession. The two teams went back and forth the whole game with freshmen Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili leading the way for the Illini. Dosunmu finished with 25 points, while Bezhanishvili ended with 12 points and five rebounds.
Illinois guard Trent Frazier did not play after suffering a concussion in the morning shootaround. Frazier scored 10 points in the the team’s opening night win against Evansville.
“Trent is one of the best defensive players we have,” junior transfer Andres Feliz said. “He’s always active on defense and gives us more rebounding from the (guard) position.”
Feliz started for the sophomore guard and was active on both ends of the floor. Feliz finished with 13 points, five assists and three steals.
Illinois had a hard time stopping the Hoyas’ dribble-drive on the defensive end.
Georgetown scored 15 layups and had 46 points in the paint.
The Illini contained center Jessie Govan in the first half, limiting him to just five points and three rebounds. Govan remained quiet in the second half, but the Hoyas’ guards exposed the Illini defense.
Freshman guard James Akinjo finished with 19 points and seven assists. Three other Hoyas finished in double figures.
“I was really disappointed defensively tonight,” Underwood said. “We talked about help-side defense and being where you’re supposed to be in the locker room. It’s the difference between winning and losing in college basketball.”
The high-tempo offense that Underwood has preached was on full display, though.
The Illini exploited the Hoyas in transition off turnovers or made baskets with 19 fast-break points. Kipper Nichols and Da’Monte Williams joined Dosunmu and Bezhanishvili in double figures.
Adonis De La Rosa earned his first playing time of the season, subbing in for Bezhanishvili early in the first half. This was the center’s first game since undergoing ACL surgery in March. De La Rosa ended without a point after playing six minutes and appeared a bit out of sync.
Alan Griffin also received his first minutes of the season after missing the opener with a knee injury. Griffin scored three points in 10 minutes.
“You think I’m afraid to go challenge anybody with this group?” Underwood said. “No, I’m excited every night the rest of the way for us. We have real dudes; guys that are really good players and well-coached.”
The Illini will next be in action Monday night when they play Gonzaga in the first round of the Maui Invitational.
“I think today was a great showing for us,” Dosunmu said. “Some nights just don’t go your way. Overall, we fought hard. We can’t get too high; we can’t get too low. We have to stay level-headed and come out and play harder in Maui.”
Mike Gasick covers Illinois athletics for GateHouse Media Illinois. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @mike_mgasick.