In keeping with the new IlliniReport format announced in 2020 Vision, my first stab at chronicling today’s squeaker over Rutgers will focus on one particular moment.
Surely Ayo’s clutch performance will be remembered for some time. Andres Feliz’s second-half grit must not go unmentioned.
These aspects will be analyzed & discussed, all over the interwebs, for days to come.
Instead, I’m going to report a detail that might not get covered anywhere else.
Exclusives are like gold in the media biz, but I hope Jim Mattson, Nico Haeflinger and/or Marlee Wierda also deliver some footage of this moment. They had essentially the same angle as I did. Fighting Illini Productions’s Zach Altfillisch might have had a clear shot too.
It happened at 9:37 of the second half as Kofi Cockburn prepared to shoot a pair of free-throws. Giorgi Bezhanishvili leaned into Myles Johnson’s left elbow, and sniffed it.
Spotting this unusual behavior, I twisted my lens clockwise for a closer look.
Had I imagined it? Was Giorgi simply positioning himself and focusing his mind on rebounding? Well, maybe.
But then he sniffed again. This time, a little way down the forearm.
Giorgi is the Illini’s Chief Practitioner of Mindgames. His low-post moves are not the end of his craftiness.
Was this a devised distraction?
Was Giorgi angling to confound Myles Johnson just at the moment when Johnson might most effectively be befuddled?
I thought Giorgi was moving in for the kiss when he suddenly looked up, straight into the lens.
I hope I didn’t ruin it.
On the other hand, Kofi made both free-throws, so perhaps it’s for the best that Giorgi kept that particular arrow in his quiver. It may come in handy later this year, when another rival rebounder requires some rattling.
Check back tomorrow for a more conventional write-up of the game. (Maybe.)