Will they soar as sophomores?

Will they soar as sophomores?

CHAMPAIGN — Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili became the first pair of Illinois freshmen to lead the team in scoring during Big Ten play. They both finished among the top five in program history for freshman scoring, with Dosunmu (13.8 points per game) fourth and Bezhanishvili (12.5 ppg) fifth behind Kiwane Garris, Cory Bradford and Deon Thomas.

Two of their classmates, though, could be primed for a sophomore jump. Illinois needs it to improve on this year's 12-21 record and bottom four of the Big Ten finish.

On paper, Alan Griffin and Tevian Jones fill serious needs for the Illini. Both are long, athletic wings that can stretch the floor. Griffin did the little things — rebounding well — but shot just 30.4 percent from three-point range. Jones' opportuntiies were limited by his eight-game suspension, but he's arguably the top athlete on the roster and had confidence in his shot even if he, too, didn't make a high percentage (29.5 percent from beyond the arc).

Illinois' 2018 recruiting class — Underwood's first full class — was always seen as the biggest building block for his rebuild. Dosunmu and Bezhanishvili contributed early. Now, the Illini need Griffin and Jones to make a similar leap.

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