Tuesday night marked the beginning of the fourth annual Gavitt Tipoff Games, the eight-game series played in November between the Big Ten and Big East. Throughout the first three years of the event the conferences have split the series, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the first night of the 2018 series were split between the two conferences.
While the early game between Wisconsin and Xavier was the more notable of tonight’s two matchups, Illinois and Georgetown provided what will likely be one of the most entertaining games of the series tonight.
Game of the Night
In 2017-18 the Hoyas were ridiculed for scheduling a cupcake non-conference schedule to pad wins ahead of conference play. The 10-1 start, with the lone loss coming in overtime to Syracuse, meant little as Georgetown finished the year 15-15. The schedule didn’t get much better this year, either, with Georgetown coming in off of a 15 point win over Maryland-Eastern Shore and a 7 point win over Central Connecticut.
Well luckily for Georgetown, Illinois is expected to finish towards the bottom of the Big Ten. And while a Gavitt Tipoff Games outing between two of the worst teams in each conference doesn’t really make it look like an appealing way to spend two plus hours, tonight's game was well worth the time spent.
In a game that had 15 lead changes and eight ties, the game came down to the wire as a pair of Ayo Dosunmu free throws cut the deficit to one for the Illini, trailing 80-81 with 1:54 to go. Unfortunately for Illinois, though, the Illini missed their last five shots and committed a turnover, allowing the Hoyas to close out the game on a 7-0 run.
Ayo Dosunmu led the Illini in scoring with 25 points while three other starters all reached double figures. Neither team shot well from outside, going 6-19 (Illinois) and 6-18 (Georgetown), while the Hoyas also sloppily committed 22 turnovers. What ultimately decided the game was the Hoyas ability to convert inside, going 28 of 43 (65%) from inside the arc compared to the Illini, who were slightly worse at 25 of 48 (52%).
It should probably be mentioned that the Illini were without guard Trent Frazier, who recorded 10 points and 7 assists in the opener against Evansville. The sophomore missed tonight’s game due to a concussion.
While the first game tonight between Wisconsin and Xavier was the more marquee matchup, the game ultimately ended up playing second fiddle to the Illinois game. Of course that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the competitive nature of the late game in comparison to this outing that saw the Badgers nurse a double figure lead throughout most of the second half.
The Badgers didn’t get much production from most of their team, but it didn’t matter as 71 of Wisconsin’s 77 points came from three players. Leading the way was forward Ethan Happ with 30 points on 15 of 23 shooting, while D’Mitrik Trice scored 22 and Brad Davison added 19 points. Outside of Happ, Trice and Davison, the remaining Badgers went 2-16 from the field.
Wisconsin’s defense was able to do a commendable job on the defensive side of the ball, with Xavier shooting 45.8% from the field and being held to 20.8% from deep on their 24 three point attempts. Naji Marshall scored 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting for Xavier but the rest of the Musketeers could only hit 17 of their 44 field goal attempts (38.6%).