When: Tuesday, 830pm
Where: State Farm Center
Series: Illinois leads 4-1
Last Meeting: 2005, Illinois won 58-48 at home
TV: Fox Sports 1
Announcers: (Justin Kutcher, Steve Bardo)
KenPom: Illinois 79, Illinois 76 (61 percent)
Line: Illinois -6
Thanks to the Gavitt Tipoff Classic, coach Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas have a tough early season road test in the form of the Fighting Illini of Illinois tonight.
In what is a big game for two schools looking to put last season’s disappointments behind them, this BIG EAST – Big Ten matchup probably carries more weight for the Hoyas as they have fewer chances at quality non-conference wins.
Georgetown’s other quality non-conference game awaits in December with a trip to Syracuse while the Fighting Illini head off to Maui next week to face Gonzaga before facing two other solid opponents. In December Illinois travels to South Bend to take on the Irish before heading to St. Louis for their annual Braggin’ Rights clash with Missouri.
So, yeah, this is a really important game for Georgetown despite the calendar still showing it is mid-November.
The new look Hoyas are off to a 2-0 start in Ewing’s second season behind the great play of senior big man Jessie Govan, the continued development of sophomore Jamorko Pickett, and the inclusion of freshmen guards James Akinjo and Mac McClung into the starting lineup.
Illinois, in coach Brad Underwood’s second year in Champaign, have played just one game in dismantling Evansville 99-60 behind a three guard lineup that included five star freshman Ayo Dosumnu who showed no opening game nerves by posting 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Coach Underwood, who guided Oklahoma State to a 97-70 rout over the Hoyas two seasons ago in Maui, missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in his head coaching career.
Tonight’s game figures to be a matchup of styles as Ewing would like to be a team that can play both inside and outside while Illinois often plays three point guards and starts just one player over 6-foot-6 in freshman Giorgi Bezhanishivili, who will likely start out on Govan.
The Hoyas will need composed play from the backcourt as Illinois will try and speed the game up. Jahvon Blair could play a huge role as he got back into his groove after a so-so performance in the opener by posting nine points, four assists, and zero turnovers in 18 minutes on Saturday. His ability to hit shots while also limiting turnovers could be huge.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
To go along with Dosumnu in the backcourt, Underwood starts guards Trent Frazier and Aaron Jordan. Jordan had 19 points, including five 3-pointers, while Frazier had seven assists in the opener. Andres Feliz came off the bench to play 21 minutes and scored 16 points as Illinois finished the game shooting 56 percent from the field, including 43 percent from deep. Bezhanishivili had a team high 10 rebounds but could have help down low in guarding Govan in the form of Samba Kane and Adonis De La Rosa. Kane is a seven footer from Florida Prep Academy who was suspended while De La Rosa, also a seven footer, is a grad transfer from Kent State that sat out last season with an ACL tear.
THEY SAID IT
“I would have much rather played them later in the year but I think it’s going to be a good test,” Ewing said about facing Illinois after Saturday’s win over Central Connecticut. “We’re looking forward to playing in a hostile environment.”
“Big team,” Dosumnu said about Georgetown on Monday. “They say they have a lottery pick big man. At the end of the day we got to work as a team to try to contain him and try to not let him catch the ball. We just got to play had. If we just play hard we should get the W.”
“Akinjo is a tough sucker,” Underwood said of the Hoyas frosh point guard. “He was MVP of the Peach Jam. He’s a kid that he’s fearless. He’s got great great quickness. He’s electric in transition. He gives them a different speed and gear. He’s shifty. He closed out the game the other night going 8 for 8 from the free throw line. He’s a good player. He’s a kid that’s played at the highest levels and he’s gotten his career off to a very good start.”
The Hoyas are 0-2 in the event with both losses coming to Maryland by a combined four points. Illinois is 1-1 in the challenge with a loss at Providence in 2015 and then a win last season at home over DePaul. The event, which includes eight games per season, has ended up tied at 4-4 in each of the first three years.
After a 2-0 week in which Govan averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting just under 80 percent from the field the Hoyas senior leader was named to the first BIG EAST Honor Roll of the 2018-19 season. Govan has now made the league’s honor roll seven times in his career with more likely to follow.
MOSELY SET TO RETURN
Jagan Mosely, who was scoreless in 18 minutes in the Hoyas opening win over UMES, missed Saturday’s game with a sore shoulder. Ewing expects the junior guard to be available tonight. In the first game Kaleb Johnson was the Hoya who was unexpectedly not in uniform. After one game out Johnson returned against Central Connecticut, scoring five points in 10 minutes.
Prediction: Illinois 82, Georgetown 77.
This game could really go either way but that being said Georgetown’s lack of perimeter defense against Central Connecticut really stood out. Pickett did a solid job on Tyler Kohl but unheralded Blue Devils frosh Ian Krishnan had his way on the other side of the court.