Illini upend Northwestern 74-69 in OT
By Jeff Mayfield

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[March 15, 2019]  My dad used a quote that I loved as a kid. He said sometimes its better to be lucky than good. Last night at the United Center was one of those times. The Illini were able to survive the Northwestern Wildcats 74-69 in overtime last night in Chicago.

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 away.

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 stretch.

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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?
Go Illini!

[By JEFF MAYFIELD with photo by Greg Taylor]

Respond to the writer at jeffqmay@gmail.com

 

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