Georgetown at Illinois
HOW TO WATCH
Time: Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Illinois -6 (-110, OddsShark)
o/u: 155.5 (-110)
It’s Been So Long Since Last We Met
Last Meeting: Dec. 8, 2005 - No. 11 Illinois defeated Georgetown at Assembly Hall, 58-48.
All-time Series: Illinois leads, 4-1.
The Georgetown Hoyas (2-0, Big East) will face their first true nonconference road test of the Patrick Ewing era when they travel to Champaign for a date with the Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0, Big Ten) as part of the Gavitt Games on Tuesday evening.
Last season, Georgetown only played one nonconference road game, a 82-76 win over the Richmond Spiders. But the lack of road experience didn’t seem to hinder the Hoyas come Big East play, as they won more games on the road (3) than at home (2) during their conference slate a season ago.
The Blue & Gray defeated Central Connecticut State in a close game on Saturday evening behind 26 points and eight boards from Jessie Govan. Trey Mourning added a career-high 12 points, while Jamorko Pickett’s valuable shooting down the stretch iced the game. Coach Ewing once again started the freshman backcourt duo of James Akinjo and Mac McClung. Both shot just 2-for-10 from the field and combined for six turnovers. Akinjo managed seven assists on the night.
The Hoyas were unable to stop Ian Krishnan, who scored 28 points for the Blue Devils. Georgetown has struggled mightily against skilled guards on the defensive end for the last several years, and early indicators would seem to suggest they haven’t quite figured out how to fix this quite yet.
That could spell trouble against an Illinois team that loves to run under second-year head coach Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini posted 99 points in their recent win over Evansville, featuring five double digit scorers. Aaron Jordan led the way with 19 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting. Ayo Dosunmu and Andres Feliz added 18 and 16 points, respectively.
While the hosts boast a strong contingent of perimeter players who can run the floor, they’ll likely struggle to contain Govan. 7-foot grad transfer Adonis De La Rosa is out with a torn ACL, leaving two freshmen, 7-foot Samba Kane and 6-foot-9 Giorgi Bezhanishvili, to handle Govan on the defensive end. The preseason All-Big East First Team selection has converted on 15-of-20 shot attempts this season, including 4-of-6 from deep, and is yet to commit a turnover. The Hoyas won’t win in a track meet against the Illini, so they’ll need Govan to control the game from the post and slow the tempo when needed.
To learn more about Illinois, we talked to Stephen Cohn, managing editor of The Champaign Room. He answered our most pressing questions ahead of Tuesday’s clash.
Big East Coast Bias: Illinois, like Georgetown, recently underwent a coaching change. What were some of the highlights from Brad Underwood’s first season and how does this Illinois team differ from years past?
Stephen Cohn: The highlights from Brad Underwood’s first season are far and few between. It was a team plagued by mental mistakes and guys who weren’t “Underwood’s guys.” So he purged the team. And now only two guys (Kipper Nichols and Aaron Jordan) remain from the moment he took over the team in March 2017. And only two guys from his freshman class (both of whom he didn’t recruit, Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams) remain. So, it’s a new team. How does this one differ from years past? Simply, it’s a brand new team. It’s a team of hustle players who are buying in much more than former players were, and this is one of their biggest tests yet.
BECB: This is Georgetown’s first road game against a major-conference opponent in the Ewing era. What kind of environment should the Hoyas expect when they step onto the court inside State Farm Center?
SC: State Farm Center can be great. If you’ve never seen a game there, Orange Krush is on the entire baseline and behind one of the baskets, and students fill it up every game. It’s a matter of if the rest of the building can be full. Illinois only had 11,000 fans there at the season opener vs. Evansville, which, in my opinion, was disappointing. Illinois fans can be amazing, but only if the product is good. I think the Hoyas can expect a good (but not overwhelming) atmosphere on Tuesday.
BECB: Recently, Georgetown has struggled to contain opposing guards who are strong on the offensive end. Who could give the Hoyas problems on the perimeter?
SC: Unlucky for you, you’ll get to see Non-Conference Aaron Jordan. Jordan’s splits from behind the arc last year between non-conference and Big Ten play were remarkable, and he started where he left off (in non-conference play) against Evansville. If he can space the floor for Illinois’ three point-guard system (with Frazier, freshman Ayo Dosunmu and JUCO transfer Andres Feliz), Georgetown will have issues. Thing is though that everyone can shoot. Watch out: Underwood wants to score 80 a night.
BECB: How do you think Illinois will fare defensively against one of the Big East’s best players in Jessie Govan?
SC: Ha. Haha. Hahahah. Illinois won’t stop him. Freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili (hell of a name, hell of a personality, developing as a player) will be tasked with getting Govan, mostly because he’s the only decent (and healthy) 6-foot-10 player on the roster. Grad transfer Adonis De La Rosa is recovering from a torn ACL in March (HE’S ALMOST BACK!) and freshman Samba Kane is so raw (and was suspended for violating a team rule, no word if he’ll be back yet). Giorgi can only play so long, and it may be a career day for Govan.
BECB: Who wins and why?
SC: I think Illinois wins. This team needs to win, mostly because the next three games after Tuesday are in Maui, starting with Gonzaga next Monday. The Illini will find a way to pull it out and clean up some of the turnover and defensive issues from the second half against the Aces. Illinois 81, Georgetown 70
Stephen’s point about the psychological need to win prior to Maui is well taken, and the Fighting Illini pose a serious threat to Georgetown’s young guards on the perimeter. But Govan is a bigger differential down low than Illinois’ guards are on the perimeter. Georgetown 79, Illinois 73.