Illinois 99, Rutgers 94 OT POSTGAME

1. Rutgers is either young and very talented....or played at their zenith. They are light years ahead of Minny.
2. Giorgi....what can you say? I liked him for the biggest impact behind Ayo but he has grown into an All B1G second team level of play and a lock for All-frosh.
3. The season is going pretty much as expected with all the newcomers. They had talent, but it takes time to grow into a team and the schedule did not provide that time. Even ADel has impacted above expectations after watching his early play.
4. All these kids deserve huge kudos and support for sticking together and being persistent at chopping wood. Likely, the majority of teams with a similar journey would be mailing it in, but they never did and play their butts off on defense while learning how to get something out of the offense. After watching the ball being passed around the perimeter for decades before throwing up a desperate three at the end of the shot clock, we are seeing the ball go inside, driven to the rim, and back out to open shooters. Been looking for that for decades. The team has shooters galore and at least one post who can get it any time. Sure look to Griffin, Higgs, and Kane to become plus players eventually....I like them all. But only five get to play and the effort they give demands 10 or more. Even Underwood seems to have adjusted his uncontrollable rage from the bench and worked harder at coaching his kids with respect. I don't mind and !!!-chewing at repeated blunders, but do it in a positive way other than a purple faced, screaming rage.
5. I was looking forward to watching the team grow and learn to play with each other while contributing positively with their personal talents. That is coming to fruition. Success breeds success and the kids are growing daily and certainly from game to game in the confidence dept.
6. Keep in mind, for those of us who have seen 60 years of Illini hoops and actually consumed Chesty potato chips, there will be some more nights when the hoops gods place a lid on the Illini basket and another Iowa or Wisky game inserts itself into the Illini record. However, this team has learned some hard lessons. Most of all, they have learned how to win close games against good teams along with the fact that winning is more fun than losing. The future is bright.

OMG --- Chesty Potato Chips..... Me Too...Great remembrance .... Thank you....
 
Regarding freshmen big men at Illinois, I looked at points and rebounds for freshmen going back to 1980, and included both Centers and Forwards (excluded those with less than 1.0 ppg) -

1981-82
Anthony Welch, 3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg
George Montgomery, 3.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg

1982-83
Efrem Winters, 12.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Scott Meents, 2.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg

1985-86
Lowell Hamilton 3.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Olaf Blab, 1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg
Jens Kujawa, 2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg

1988-89
Marcus Liberty, 8.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Andy Kaufman, 4.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg

1989-90
Rodney Jones, 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Andy Kpedi, 2.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg

1990-91
Deon Thomas, 15.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Tom Michael, 4.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg
TJ Wheeler, 4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg

1991-92
Scott Pierce, 5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Robert Bennett, 4.8 ppg, 3.8 ppg
Marc Davidson, 1.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg

1993-94
Jerry Hester, 8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Chris Gandy, 3.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg

1994-95
Jarrod Gee, 6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Brian Notree, 2.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Brian Johnson 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Brett Robisch, 1.3 ppg, 0.7 rpg

1995-96
Ryan Blackwell, 3.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

1996-97
Victor Chukwudebe, 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg

1997-98
Sergio McClain, 3.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Awvee Story, 3.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg

1998-99
Lucas Johnson, 4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Damir Krupalija, 4.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Robert Archibald, 3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg

1999-2000
Brian Cook, 9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg

2001-02
Nick Smith, 3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Roger Powell, 2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg

2002-03
James Augustine, 7.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Kyle Wilson, 2.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Aaron Spears, 3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2003-04
Brian Randle, 2.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Warren Carter, 1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg

2004-05
Shaun Pruitt 1.4 pff, 0.9 rpg

2005-06
Richard Semrau, 3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Brian Carlwell, 1.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Charles Jackson, 1.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2007-08
Mike Tisdale, 3.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Mike Davis, 2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg
Bill Cole, 2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg

2009-10
Tyler Griffey, 3.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg

2010-11
Jereme Richmond, 7.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Meyers Leonard, 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg

2011-12
Myke Henry, 3.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Nnanna Egwu, 1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2012-13
Maverick Morgan, 1.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg
Austin Colbert, 1.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg

2014-15
Leron Black, 5.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg

2015-16
Michael Finke, 7.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

2016-17
Kipper Nichols, 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

2017-18
Greg Eboigbodin, 2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

2018-19 (through Rutgers game)
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, 12.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Samba Kane, 1.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg

Illinois has never had the reputation for acquiring and developing big men, but suffice it to say that if the season were to end today, Giorgi has had the 3rd best freshman season of any Illini big in the last 30+ years, and the season's not out yet. The other two (Efrem Winters and Deon Thomas) had pretty great careers as Illini, and Giorgi is on the right track. Even lottery pick Meyers Leonard's sophomore season was only a bit better than Giorgi's at 13.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg. (Meyers leaving for the NBA was the right thing for him, but we will always wonder "What if. . . . ?")

I'm not going to go back and dig up the data on freshmen duos, but suffice it to say that Giorgi and Ayo are amongst the top 2 or 3 freshmen duos over the same timeframe.
Great research. Giorgi also has the benefit of there not being an older big worth spit on the roster, so he gets a ton of tick for a freshman. Most other years, he’d be getting eased in as a sub. Props to him, of course, for making the most of his opportunity; what he has accomplished is really remarkable.
 
Great research. Giorgi also has the benefit of there not being an older big worth spit on the roster, so he gets a ton of tick for a freshman. Most other years, he’d be getting eased in as a sub. Props to him, of course, for making the most of his opportunity; what he has accomplished is really remarkable.

OA. He is the key. The man can recruit and develop. Lock him up (with $$$).
 
of Illinois and the state of Illinois basketball ain't so bad when you can land a guy like Giorgi! A.
Regarding freshmen big men at Illinois, I looked at points and rebounds for freshmen going back to 1980, and included both Centers and Forwards (excluded those with less than 1.0 ppg) -

1981-82
Anthony Welch, 3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg
George Montgomery, 3.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg

1982-83
Efrem Winters, 12.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Scott Meents, 2.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg

1985-86
Lowell Hamilton 3.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Olaf Blab, 1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg
Jens Kujawa, 2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg

1988-89
Marcus Liberty, 8.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Andy Kaufman, 4.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg

1989-90
Rodney Jones, 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Andy Kpedi, 2.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg

1990-91
Deon Thomas, 15.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Tom Michael, 4.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg
TJ Wheeler, 4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg

1991-92
Scott Pierce, 5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Robert Bennett, 4.8 ppg, 3.8 ppg
Marc Davidson, 1.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg

1993-94
Jerry Hester, 8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Chris Gandy, 3.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg

1994-95
Jarrod Gee, 6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Brian Notree, 2.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Brian Johnson 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Brett Robisch, 1.3 ppg, 0.7 rpg

1995-96
Ryan Blackwell, 3.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

1996-97
Victor Chukwudebe, 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg

1997-98
Sergio McClain, 3.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Awvee Story, 3.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg

1998-99
Lucas Johnson, 4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Damir Krupalija, 4.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Robert Archibald, 3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg

1999-2000
Brian Cook, 9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg

2001-02
Nick Smith, 3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Roger Powell, 2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg

2002-03
James Augustine, 7.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Kyle Wilson, 2.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Aaron Spears, 3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2003-04
Brian Randle, 2.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Warren Carter, 1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg

2004-05
Shaun Pruitt 1.4 pff, 0.9 rpg

2005-06
Richard Semrau, 3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Brian Carlwell, 1.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Charles Jackson, 1.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2007-08
Mike Tisdale, 3.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Mike Davis, 2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg
Bill Cole, 2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg

2009-10
Tyler Griffey, 3.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg

2010-11
Jereme Richmond, 7.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Meyers Leonard, 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg

2011-12
Myke Henry, 3.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Nnanna Egwu, 1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg

2012-13
Maverick Morgan, 1.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg
Austin Colbert, 1.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg

2014-15
Leron Black, 5.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg

2015-16
Michael Finke, 7.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

2016-17
Kipper Nichols, 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

2017-18
Greg Eboigbodin, 2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

2018-19 (through Rutgers game)
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, 12.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Samba Kane, 1.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg

Illinois has never had the reputation for acquiring and developing big men, but suffice it to say that if the season were to end today, Giorgi has had the 3rd best freshman season of any Illini big in the last 30+ years, and the season's not out yet. The other two (Efrem Winters and Deon Thomas) had pretty great careers as Illini, and Giorgi is on the right track. Even lottery pick Meyers Leonard's sophomore season was only a bit better than Giorgi's at 13.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg. (Meyers leaving for the NBA was the right thing for him, but we will always wonder "What if. . . . ?")

I'm not going to go back and dig up the data on freshmen duos, but suffice it to say that Giorgi and Ayo are amongst the top 2 or 3 freshmen duos over the same timeframe.
Well done.
 
How did so many big-time schools whiff on Giorgi? I said some time ago he would be a fan favorite if only for his name and personality. But the guy's a player! So glad he considers U of I his family. What a story! May I buy the movie rights?
 
Cool moment today at the game, I started chanting Giorgi's name as loud as I could and it turned into a crowd chant shortly after. It's pretty incredible what Giorgi is doing, the kid was having his name chanted (we the fans adore this kid and rightfully so).
I love this story: Gives me goosebumps.

"I cannot explain it,” Davit said. “It’s amazing. He made sure I would never forget my visit to Illinois. After last game, I was like, ‘OK, nothing can be better than this.’

Then Big Giorgi goes for 35 setting records as the crowd chants his name... Imagine what Davit was feeling during the chant of his brother's name.
 
Last edited:
I love this story: Gives me goosebumps.

"I cannot explain it,” Davit said. “It’s amazing. He made sure I would never forget my visit to Illinois. After last game, I was like, ‘OK, nothing can be better than this.’

Then Big Giorgi goes for 35 setting records as the crowd chants his name... Imagine what Davit was feeling during the chant of his brother's name.
You betcha!
 
I love this story: Gives me goosebumps.

"I cannot explain it,” Davit said. “It’s amazing. He made sure I would never forget my visit to Illinois. After last game, I was like, ‘OK, nothing can be better than this.’

Then Big Giorgi goes for 35 setting records as the crowd chants his name... Imagine what Davit was feeling during the chant of his brother's name.
As a big brother, there ain't much better than little brother coming up clutch and making a crowd scream.
 
I'm a talent agent/scriptwriter/producer who has absolutely no credits to his name. But has that stopped me? Yes.

But whom (great Inglish) would you cast in my treatment of "The Giorgi Stiori"?

I start with Humphrey Bogart as Brad Underwood.

Let's have some fun this season!

And beat the Buckeyes!
 
Last edited:
I've taken a lot of comfort over the course of the season from comments made by the players about BU. It has seemed to me that the players feel BU truly cares for them and that there's a real relationship context between him/them … Passion is something BU shares with his players - more so than Lou Henson appeared to and more like Izzo (like him or not, Izzo gets buy-in from his players, not just because he knows the game, but also because he has passion and cares for his guys).
I guess to add some more color to the coaching picture, I can say that I was around the team and coaches enough in late 80s to offer these perceptions (my perceptions/obviously not guaranteed as truth/just what I thought I was seeing and hearing):

  • the players in the late 80s truly liked/respected Lou Henson, but they didn't really seem to feel his presence all that much during games (unless they just made a mistake that might get them pulled)
  • the players believed Lou understood basketball, although his version of basketball was more structured (until 88-89) than they would have liked (88-89 players got more license from Lou to show their ++athleticism and skills)
  • the guys thought Lou was a bit unrelatable -- dorky hair style and more corporate, aloof, top/down approach to running the team
  • the guys liked/respected Lou because he was a very sincere and "good man" who cared about them
  • the assistant coaches were important links between Lou and players, and it was more likely that an assistant would talk with a particular player just pulled out of game for mistakes made
From what I'm seeing on tv and reading about, it seems that coach Underwood runs a much "flatter" organization than Lou did:
  • the current players truly like/respect Underwood, and they strongly feel his presence during games (looks like this is sometimes good/sometimes bad, but I tend to think it will be a net positive - remember Jimmy V?)
  • players have had some doubts about Underwood's system
  • the players find Underwood very relatable (which gives him some license with them to be more emotional)
  • the players believe Underwood cares about them
  • the assistant coaches don't seem to serve as links between Underwood and players- coach-player relations are very direct and personal
Underwood's "flat" management style puts coaches/players all into the boat together -- the word "family" keeps popping up, and it looks like a pretty healthy family this year. That "family" approach might be what keeps Ayo around for another year, and it sure feels to me like it was important reason the coach didn't lose the players during earlier turbulence.

Take above for what it's worth …. but I'm feeling good about Underwood and expect we truly are at the beginning of what will be an extended period of good for the beloved -- ILL!
 
Last edited:
If you had told me the game would be played at that tempo, I would have thought we would blow them out with a big game from Frazier or Ayo. Rutgers showed an ability to play fast that they haven't shown all year. And half of the people who played for Rutgers outweigh Giorgi, but he had the huge game.

Illinois did not play at the level they had against Neb and MSU the last two games. It was pretty easy to see (especially on defense) and shows in the drop in efficiency rankings (kenpom). But we still played a decent game, and more importantly won a game without playing the absolute best. Knowing how to win on your less than best game is huge.
 
Here are a couple of questions to ponder and discuss...

1. If we hadn't played such a tough pre-conference schedule would this team be where they are now in terms of skill? I'm not talking about record, obviously our record would probably be better if we had feasted on a steady stream of cupcakes, but would the team have improved and would we be beating MSU or winning that incredibly tough game vs. Rutgers if we weren't playing a bunch of P5 teams (plus Gonzaga) in Nov/Dec?

2. Do we need to worry about OA being recruited away either for a HC job at a smaller school or a bigger role at a more high-profile university? With LB and now GB on his resume does he become a hot commodity that we can't retain?
 
No doubt Giorgi has great footwork but I am really impressed with his soft hands. He catches everything. Something some of our previous big men struggled with.
earlier in the season his "soft hands" caused him to lose some rebounds he should have pulled down. Haven't noticed that as much the past few games. Gotta be soft and strong at the same time.
 
Likes: Chukwuwumba