During any long season, especially one being played in a global pandemic and largely without fans, a team is all but guaranteed to experience a letdown. (Even top-ranked Gonzaga had one at Pacific last week.) The only hope is that when it comes, you can survive it. And that’s why, if for no other reason, Illinois coach Brad Underwood can feel good about what happened Friday night inside Pinnacle Bank Arena.
His Illini had a letdown — but they survived it.
“We escaped in a very ugly fashion,” Underwood said following Illinois’ 77-72 overtime victory at Nebraska. “Nobody, at the end of the year, is going to draw pictures of this one. But it’s a W.”
Indeed, it is. So now Illinois is 14-5 overall, 10-3 in the Big Ten. And the main reason is because Ayo Dosunmu took over in the closing minutes. The 6-foot-5 guard scored 22 of his 31 points after halftime to help the Illini overcome a six-point deficit with just 2:36 left in regulation. He scored Illinois’ final 10 points in regulation and first five points in overtime.
“I told myself it was time to lock-in,” Dosunmu said. “Trust in yourself. Believe your instincts. You got this. Let’s try to will my team to victory.”
That’s precisely what he did. The result was Illinois, just barely, avoiding what would’ve been its first Quadrant 3 loss of the season. As it is, the Illini remain 10-5 in the first two quadrants with zero losses coming outside of the first two quadrants. The next game on the schedule is Tuesday vs. Northwestern.
Illinois is No. 5 in Saturday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. The Illini are one of six Big Ten teams in the Top 25 And 1. The others are No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 19 Iowa, and No. 25 Rutgers.
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