CHAMPAIGN — Trent Frazier has no intent to watch the shot that came ever-so-close to falling on Tuesday against Notre Dame.
Had the shot fallen, it would have given Illinois a win over the Irish, instead of a 76-74 loss to drop the team to 2-5.
After the game, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood wrapped Frazier up in his arms and told him to keep letting the shots fly. Frazier has the unabashed trust of his coach and his teammates in those moments.
“He said I’m going to make that shot," Frazier said. "It’s me just getting better and working. We’re right there. That’s what he said: ‘We’re right here.’ We’re so close. We’re going to continue to work and get better."
Outside of giving the Illini a shot to win, Frazier is rather critical of his own game against Notre Dame. He finished with six points on 3-of-11 shooting and battled an ankle injury, which Underwood said is fine moving forward.
“That game for me was probably the worst I’ve ever played," Frazier said. "... As a leader, I had to take upon that and swallow my pride. It was unbelievable. I was atrocious. I didn’t think I did enough to help my team win that game. On my part, I’m just going to come out here with a lot of energy and get my guys better and be ready tomorrow."
Jones still suspended
Prior to Tuesday's game, the team announced that freshman forward Tevian Jones had been suspended indefinitely from game activity for a violation of team rules.
On Saturday Underwood said Jones, who is averaging 3.2 points, won't play Sunday against Nebraska.
"He’ll continue to work and practice and do those things but won’t suit," Underwood said.
De la Rosa progressing
There have been flashes from graduate transfer Adonis De La Rosa, who is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered last season at Kent State.
De La Rosa played his best against against Iowa State at the Maui Invitational, where he had six points and seven rebounds, but struggled on Tuesday against Notre Dame, going 0-2 from the field with no rebounds.
“It’s about comfort for him," Underwood said. "I think it’s as much mental as it is physical. He’s still not in great shape, but here’s a young man was in both days this week and spent time on the treadmill. We saw flashes in Maui. He didn’t play very well against Notre Dame, but he’s not comfortable. He's still trying to find his way yet. He had a very good day yesterday in practice. Every day he gets better and has a better chance to help us."
Ayo doing other things
Freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu hasn't reached a double-figure scoring total since he scored 19 points against Xavier in the final game of the Maui Invitational, but he's still put his fingerprints all over the last two games.
He's had nine rebounds in the last two games and dished nine assists against Mississippi Valley State last week.
“I thought he got off to a really good start against Notre Dame in terms of attacking and being aggressive," Underwood said. "He’s proven that he’s a very, very good jump shooter. He’s making shots. He missed, literally, layups. He missed three or four layups. I think he was 1-of-4 on layups. That’s something he’s going to make every time. He’s one of the best layup makers I saw when I recruited him. He just had one of those nights. He’s one of the guys who I don’t worry about because he does everything else. His intent to do what we ask on the defensive end, on rebounding. We’ve got to put him in situations a little more with the ball based on matchups.
“I have no complaints with anything he’s doing. Make a couple layups and all of a sudden he’s got a 14-point game and nine rebounds and we’re singing a different song. He’s been awfully good for a freshman."
At one point, Girogi Bezhanishvili was an under-the-radar signee for Underwood and the Illini. But there are very few radars the 6-foot-10 Bezhanishvili is flying under now.
He's averaging 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds this season and is a factor when he's on the court and not battling foul trouble.
Keeping Bezhanishvili on the court has been a concerted effort by both he and Underwood.
“That’s always the goal for me is to stay out of foul trouble," Bezhanishvili said. "I foul a lot. I try to stay out of foul trouble like every other game. I still have to play defense like any other game and stay on the court."
But when he's on the court, the Illini flow.
“We’ve done a much better job of establishing Giorgi to give us an inside-out," Underwood said. "We missed 13 layups in the Notre Dame game. Thirteen. That’s a lot. We missed 19 rolls where guys were open and we’ve got to start cleaning those things up.
"Those are opportunities at the rim. Giorgi’s playing literally as well as anybody right now in terms of his field goal percentage. He’s guarding. He needs to be a viable option."