Illini basketball

The Press

Normally, an Illini Report column assumes you watched the game, got your factsy news from a reputable source, and came here for some verbal panache and pictures.

For the Nicholls State write-up, I’m going to assume you didn’t see the game, and need to know why Illinois choked away a late lead. I’ll even go to the extraordinary length of divulging the final score: Illini 78, Nicholls State 70 (OT)

Illinois’ 3-guard line-up couldn’t handle a trapping press. That’s the story of the game. It wouldn’t have been close if Trent Frazier could buy a shot, or Giorgi a rebound. But that’s the way the ball bounced for those two, and suddenly a comfortable 64-50 with five minutes remaining was a tense 66-64, in favor of the visitors. And there was the seven-foot freshman, trying to bring the ball up the court.

Trent didn’t score until hitting the free-throws that sent the game to overtime. Giorgi finished with only 4 rebounds, three of which came at the offensive end. But in crunch time, he just couldn’t get to the ball when it really mattered.

Ayo had five turnovers, and landed in a crumpled pile as often as usual, which is too often. It hurts to watch

Inevitably, it was Andres Feliz who willed the team to victory. Why is it that Andres Feliz was forgotten when everyone crafted his pre-season starting five? When will you people learn?

Giorgi hit a pair of threes, and he worked to give Kofi space in the paint. In the latter respect, his energy was not focused on putting a ball directly through a hoop.

But because those efforts garnered a double-double for Kofi, and 11 points for Giorgi … well, there was reason for optimism. But yes, Giorgi isn’t getting those same low-post isolation opportunities that launched Frank Kaminski into the NBA.

More significantly, Dre’s nose for rebounds provided an unflattering comparison for Giorgi. Certainly, it seemed that the ball bounced where Giorgi wasn’t. But when you compare Giorgi’s bad luck with guys like Dennis Rodman, or Dre (and Chester Frazier before him) you have to question whether it’s luck.

Either way, it doesn’t show that Giorgi is terrible. Rebounding is a rare skill. Most guys can grab a ball that comes toward them. Andres Feliz is one of those guys who always seems to be where the ball lands.

If you want reason for optimism, think of it this way: Almost everything that could go wrong for Illinois went wrong, and yet they won.

Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk followed his debut perfection with an 0-fer performance. Ayo couldn’t keep the ball in his own hands and Trent went 0-for-9 from the field.

The night’s loudest crowd reaction came on a rebound dunk that Alan Griffin missed. Come Monday, we’ll have a much better idea of how worried everyone should be.