CHAMPAIGN — There were flashes and stretches that the University of Illinois basketball team looked like it could overcome its youth and being without top scorer Trent Frazier, who was out with an injury.
But Georgetown put the game away late in the fourth quarter behind a freshman of its own in James Akinjo, who scored five of the final nine Georgetown points to help the Hoyas leave the State Farm Center with an 88-80 win Tuesday night in the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games.
"Give Georgetown a lot of credit," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "They made every play when they needed to make it. The 50-50 balls, rebounding and some of the things they did was huge in giving them second opportunities."
Illinois (1-1) trailed by one, 79-78, with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left before a 9-2 Georgetown run sealed the game.
"I thought it was a great win to beat a very good, quality team on the road," Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. "My guys showed a lot of heart and courage. It was a nip-and-tuck game and we were able to pull it out at the end."
In the midst of brutal stretches that included untimely turnovers, missed shots and a free run of Hoyas (3-0) shots at the rim, Illinois freshman Ayo Dosunmu continued his torrid start to his college career. He scored a game-high 25 points, including four made shots in the second half to either tie or take the lead.
With 1:39 remaining, Illinois sophomore Da’Monte Williams blocked Akinjo. Dosunmu came up with a steal on the inbounds pass and fed the ball to junior Kipper Nichols, who couldn’t finish the layup. A replay review showed the ball went off a Georgetown player and Illinois regained possession with a chance to take a lead with 1:32 left. Dosunmu got the ball, drove to the lane and kicked the ball to Nichols, who missed an open 3-point attempt.
If Dosunmu could do it all over again, he’d do the exact same thing — find Nichols (6-for-12, 13 points) for a three — but with a better, more accurate pass.
After the game, Dosunmu shouldered the blame for the loss, despite a game-high in points.
“I felt like we had ample opportunities down the stretch to close,” Dosunmu said. “We had Kip with the layup and another jump shot. I told him the shot that he missed was my bad. I didn’t put the ball right where I should have. I should have put it in a place for him to knock the shot down.
"At the end of the day I told him, '100 times out of 100 times if I have that same play, I'm going to keep kicking it to you.' I trust him as a veteran and as my brother to knock the shot down."
Illinois trailed by no more than seven points in the second half until the run to end the game. The Illini went on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes to take a 50-49 lead after a Dosunmu triple. From that point, they trailed by no more than three points until the 9-2 run.
“I learned that we have to close," Dosunmu said. "Me being a leader of the team, I have to help my team close out the game better. It was a close game. We had ample opportunities to close down the stretch. At the end of the day I feel like I have to do a better job of putting my team in a better position to close."
Frazier is in concussion protocol, which caused him to miss the game. The injury was suffered Monday in practice after a collision with freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
Illinois missed his scoring ability, and Frazier's absence also led to both Dosunmu and Feliz to play about "six to eight more minutes," Underwood said.
But more than anything, Illinois missed Frazier's defense. The Hoyas shot 55.7 percent from the field and 58.3 percent on two-point field goal attempts.
The help-side defense wasn't there for the Illini, and the Hoyas took advantage.
“It’s help-side defense and being where you’re supposed to be," Underwood said. "It’s the difference between winning and losing in college basketball. Truth be told, it’s where we missed Trent the most."
Feliz played sound defense, going on runs where he turned steals into transition layups while drawing fouls. He had three steals in the game, but Frazier would have helped on the defensive end.
“Trent is one of the best defensive players that we had on the team," Feliz said. "He always seems to be on the right side of help."
Dosunmu and Bezhanishvili continued to be unfazed in big moments. Bezhanishvili had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists while facilitating the offense through the pinch post.
“I think we’re starting to see the evolution of a couple really good freshmen and their development," Underwood said.
Being unfazed in big moments is something those two were born with, Underwood said.
"The young man came in and took the blame for the loss, two games into his career, are you kidding me," Underwood said. "How mature is that? There's a maturity that goes well beyond, there's an expectation from Ayo, there's an expectation from Giorgi. It's not just trying to find your way, it's trying to do the right things to win."