CHAMPAGIN — If there were a game last year where Trent Frazier didn't score a point in the second half, a safe bet says that the Illini wouldn't have won that game by 39 points.
After Frazier scored 10 points last Thursday against Evansville, he found different ways to impact the game in the second half without making one of his two field goal attempts and the Illinois men's basketball team beat Evansville 99-60.
“We have a lot of great players," Frazier said. "I don’t have to score the ball all the time. I was distributing and getting my teammates involved in the second half. That’s a good thing right there that I can trust these guys to make plays."
Frazier, though, had seven assists and no turnovers in the game while moving the ball to his teammates.
"I thought, by far and away, it was his best game as a floor general," head coach Brad Underwood said. "When you watch the game and break it down, the coverages he made defensively were exceptional. I was really, really pleased with Trent’s play in a game that he impacted so greatly and didn’t have 25 points. That’s really encouraging."
Extra work at Ubben
While most of Ayo Dosunmu's performance was everything Illini fans had been waiting on, and in some cases, more, there was something un-Donsumu-like.
He missed all three of his free throw attempts. Underwood sat down with Dosunmu during a timeout to remind him of his woes at the line, but Dosunmu already knew all too well.
When the players filed out of State Farm Center, Dosunmu crossed the street and headed inside the Ubben Basketball Complex for 100 free throws.
When he woke up Friday morning, he went for 100 more.
Dosunmu's extra trips to Ubben weren't unlike what teammate Kipper Nichols did after a 1-of-10 shooting performance in the exhibition against Illinois Wesleyan.
“I was able to hit a few shots," Nichols said. "After that game, I just wanted to see one go in before I went to sleep that night."
Nichols said it's becoming contagious and players are racing to beat each other to the gym.
“This team’s competitive," Underwood said. "When they don’t live up to their own expectations, this is a group that has pride. You want that. You want to know that guy is going to go to the gym and work on something he didn’t do well — whether it was 1 for 10 or going 0 for 3 from the free-throw line.
"That’s something I think every coach strives for. This group is not going to settle for anything but that. They’ve pushed themselves that way and individually. When you do that individually, that becomes a pretty good team characteristic to have and that’s something I’m glad we got going."
Extra energy for Giorgi
No one has ever accused freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili of being light on energy.
He picked up a technical in both the exhibition game and season opener, has had chants of his name float around the State Farm Center and rarely sits down when he's on the bench.
But on Tuesday against Georgetown, he'll have a little more energy when his mother, Lali Bezhanishvili is in attendance. Lali flew in from Austria on Sunday and will see Giorgi play basketball for the first time in nearly a year-and-a-half.
“For our family, energy is a huge thing in general," Giorgi said. "Not just me, but my mom and my brother. My mom gives me the extra energy. Obviously I give my best every time, but my mom is here. I look at her and she’s in the stands, I’ll give even more than I have."
Jones building confidence
Tevian Jones' athleticism is well-known, but he got a confidence booster against Evansville.
Jones came off the bench and scored eight points. He showed his mid-range touch, had four rebounds and pinned an Evansville shot off the backboard.
“Confidence is everything," Underwood said. "Confidence is a vital part of his success. We saw a little of what he could do offensively in the second half. He can score in a variety of ways. Defensively, he makes an unbelievable block that nobody else on our team can make after getting beat off the dribble."
Williams still in the right places
At Illinois basketball practices there's a blue piece of tape that runs right down the lane. It's meaningful and helps players practice drawing charges.
On a team with little size in the post, Underwood said that taking charges is a way of post defense. On Thursday, sophomore Da'Monte Williams did just that.
Williams opened his sophomore season with the same knack for the game he displayed as a freshman.
“He drew three charges and was just in the right spot almost every time defensively," Underwood said.