CHAMPAIGN – The Illini men’s basketball team did not get a third straight blowout in the final game of their multi-team event in Champaign. Illinois beat the Ohio Bobcats 77-75 Friday, but it was a close game all the way.
Ayo Dosunmu converted a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining in the second half. The first tied the game. The second gave Illinois the lead. Trent Frazier stole Ohio’s final inbound pass, scored the final point and intentionally missed his final free throw.
After lopsided Illini wins this week over North Carolina A&T and Chicago State, Dosunmu said he was glad to have the challenge.
“It definitely gives us, our coaching staff, a great piece of film to watch, study over, make adjustments,” said Dosunmu. “They (the Bobcats) played us well. They showed things that we need to get better at. This is a blessing in disguise, because you really don’t want to be winning by 40, 30, and then when you play a good team, you face adversity. Now the younger guys, they understand how a high-major basketball game is against a really good team.”
With the Bobcats enjoying an 8 point second-half lead, Da’Monte Williams connected on a three-pointer that rallied the team to a tie. Williams also connected on a three that brought the Illini within one in the final minute.
Overall, Williams was 3-of-4 from behind the arc. He tallied his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Kofi Cockburn also double-doubled with 13 points and a game-high 14 boards.
Dosunmu led Illinois with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
Point guard Jason Preston scored 20 points in the first half for Ohio, and finished with 31. Forward Ben Vander Plas added 20 points, including 4-of-10 from three-point range. Ohio’s defense and particularly its big men caused Illinois problems both in the lane and on the arc.
With the win, the Illini improve to 3-0 on the year. Ohio drops to 2-1. The next game for Illinois comes Wednesday night in Indianapolis, where they’ll face second-ranked Baylor. That game tips at 9 pm central on ESPN.
(CORRECTION: Ayo Dosunmu converted two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining in the game, not 2.7, as stated earlier. – JM 11/28/20 9:50 a.m.)