UI basketball notes: 'I have to grow'

UI basketball notes: 'I have to grow'

LINCOLN, Neb. — Illinois started its three point guard lineup of Trent Frazier, Andres Feliz and Ayo Dosunmu for the second straight game Sunday at Nebraska. The results, again, were mixed.

Frazier was held in check offensively in the first half. Dosunmu struggled with ball security and efficiency on the offensive end. And Feliz had more fouls (four) than he did points and assists (two each) or rebounds.

"When you're realistically starting three point guards you'd hope you wouldn't have as many turnovers as we did," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. The Illini finished their 75-60 loss to the Cornhuskers with 15 turnovers. "That's something we've got to grow into."

That three-point guard lineup also has some growing to do together. Underwood regularly played that trio in the first month of the season, but started them for the first time Tuesday at Notre Dame.

It's still a work in progress.

"I think there's been some positives," Underwood said. "The one thing I'm probably concerned about as much as anything is the ball being out of Trent's hands too much."

Getting Frazier the ball more is as much about as his facilitating as it is his scoring. The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard had seven assists in Illinois' season-opening win against Evansville but didn't top three assists until Sunday when he had four against the Cornhuskers.

Frazier only getting two shots in the first half, though, is something Underwood said needs to change. In fact, the Illini coach was pretty adamant about that.

"He's an all-league player," Underwood said. "He's a guy that's had explosive moments. We fight that a little bit with all three of those guys. Sometimes we try to do too much. I think we're still identifying roles on our team. We've got to know that Trent's a guy that's going to be option one or two, no doubt."

★ ★ ★

Giorgi Bezhanishvili hit double figures in scoring for the second straight game and fourth time in his eight-game Illinois career Sunday against Nebraska. The 6-9 freshman forward led the Illini with 14 points.He also fouled out. Again.

Bezhanishvili is averaging 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes and has at least four in his last seven games. He also fouled out Tuesday at Notre Dame, although he managed not to pick up consecutive quick fouls against the Fighting Irish.

Bezhanishvili didn't avoid that particular issue Sunday.

"Really, honestly, it's just stupid, dumb fouls that I commit," Bezhanishvili said. "On the offensive rebound, I commit a foul. Then again on the offensive rebound I commit a foul. Those are two fouls I shouldn't have. It's mentally, too. Personally, I got a little bit too emotional, and that's why I committed those fouls. I have to grow as a player."

Illinois needs Bezhanishvili on the court. Underwood has expressed that point multiple times.

"He's got to stay dialed in because we need him on the court," Underwood said. "Giorgi's one of the better interior guys in this league, and he can really score the basketball. We need him on the court. There's no doubt."

★ ★ ★

Nebraska made it a point to attack the basket against Illinois on Sunday. It was the Cornhuskers' answer to the Illini's pressure defense on the wing that regularly extended to midcourt.

Nebraska got results doing so. The Cornhuskers turned 23 Illinois fouls into 25 of 30 free throw shooting.

"I thought we might try to set a Nebraska record and see how many free throws we'd let (James) Palmer shoot (Sunday)," Underwood quipped after the game.

Palmer was 12 of 14 from the free throw line for more than half of his 23 points.

"He's a big body for a guard, and he gets downhill with a good change of speed," Illinois redshirt junior forward Kipper Nichols said. "He's good at getting to the free throw line. He has a knack for that."

★ ★ ★

Nichols got back on track against Nebraska with 12 points. While he had 14 points in Illinois' win against Mississippi Valley State, it was the most the 6-6 forward put up against a high major opponent since scoring 13 against Georgetown in the second game of the season

"It was nice to see Kipper do some things tonight," Underwood said. "He's been in a little bit of a funk. I liked Kipper today. I think he's got to be a big piece of what we do because of his size and ability to shoot and he can be an elite rebounder when he wants to be."

★ ★ ★

The only Illini to finish Sunday's game with a positive plus/minus was redshirt junior Tyler Underwood. The walk-on guard had two rebounds and a steal in about 4 1 / 2 minutes on the court.

Brad Underwood has turned to his son on multiple occasions already this season.

"He knows the system backward and forward," Brad Underwood said. "He's been around a lot of winning. He's seen how it's been done right — especially back at (Stephen F. Austin) and Oklahoma State — and how it works. His positioning is very good. He's an IQ player, and he's not afraid to stick his nose in there and grab a couple rebounds as well as take charges."

★ ★ ★

Alan Griffin had a bit of a short leash early in Sunday's game. The freshman guard has been bothered by turnover trouble of late, and it cropped up again against the Cornhuskers. One more turnover on Sunday made for 12 in the last four games.

"Alan's going to be a heck of a player," Brad Underwood said. "I love that kid to death. He's an offensive weapon. He can shoot the cover off of it. You just can't turn it over. You can't shoot it if you don't have it."

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