INDIANAPOLIS — The Baylor Bears showed why they are ranked number two in the country, beating the fifth-ranked Fighting Illini men’s basketball team 82-69 Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
Davion Mitchell and Adam Flagler scored 15 and 18 points respectively to lead the Bears, combining for 58% shooting and 6-11 on three-pointers. It was a stark contrast to the Illini offense, as Head coach Brad Underwood lamented afterward.
“It was a frustrating night,” Underwood said. “We’re not going to win many games when Ayo (Dosunmu) goes 6-18 (shooting), and Adam Miller goes 2-11, and Trent (Frazier) has six turnovers.”
Frazier actually had five turnovers, but taking care of the basketball was a problem for Illinois, as they had 12 turnovers, compared to just seven for Baylor.
Despite the poor shooting, Ayo Dosunmu finished with 18 points and 5 assists to lead the Illini. Giorgi Bezhanishvili added a spark off the bench with 17 points, as did Andre Curbelo, who scored 11.
Bezhanishvili said Baylor was relentless on defense.
“They just fought for 40 minutes straight and never gave up,” Bezhanishvili said. “They just played like dogs for 40 straight minutes, not a minute less. That’s what they do.”
The Bears’ Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua caused problems for Illini big man Kofi Cockburn, who sat more than half the game with foul trouble. Underwood said Cockburn couldn’t get in rhythm.
“Keeping him out of foul trouble would help. It’s really that simple,” Underwood said. “Sometimes it’s really, really hard to find that mojo again when you sit so long. I think he played maybe six minutes in the first half. The positive thing was that Giorgi played so well, I didn’t need to bring him (Kofi) back in.”
Shooting was about even for the teams. Baylor converted 45% from the floor and Illinois 44%. Each team shot 7-18 on three-pointers, and not great from the free throw line (Illinois 10-16, Baylor 15-24). Baylor garnered 38 rebounds to Illinois’ 35, including a game-high 7 from Da’Monte Williams.
One difference in the game was second-chance points. Baylor grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to the Illini’s 10, and outscored Illinois 24-7 with those extra opportunities. Although neither team coughed the ball up at an excessive rate, Baylor won that battle as well, turning it over just seven times, compared to twelve for Illinois.
The Illini return to action Saturday, when they host Tennesee-Martin. That game tips at 8:00 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
Rob McColley covers University of Illinois athletics for WILL.