Bezhanishvili delivered high five after high fem. Accepted a folded paper hat from one of the Krush. Stopped to sign an autograph. Celebrated with what has been an ad fan base pretty much since they were first introduced to the native of Rustavi, Georgia.
For good reason. Exceptionally, needed at the hot-shooting Scarlet Knights.
"We got on the big boy's back and rode those shoulders for 29 second-half (and overtime) points , "Illinois coach Brad Underwood said.
Bezhanishvili's 35 points were also record breaking. Deon Thomas' 34 in a 120-116 double overtime victory against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Dec. 3, 1990.
Thomas, who was on the radio call for Saturday's game, had broken a front row seat to see his record. Illinois' all-time leading scorer was also the one to let know he was the new record holder.
"I said," I'm sorry. It wasn't intentional, "" Bezhanishvili said after the game. 19659009] No apology necessary according to Thomas
"I'm like, 'Dog, there is no need to be sorry. That's what you're supposed to do," Thomas said.
Being able to share that moment with Thomas. One of the most proud moments of his Illini career, he said, was when Eddie Johnson called him a congratulations after joining Johnson's then-program record for career points.
"I want the best players on this court – guys that really care about it and love this university the way I do, "Thomas continued. "If you can and break the records while they stand, I love it."
Bezhanishvili had just six points at halftime on 2 of 5 shooting. He bounced back in the final 25 minutes and just missed a single shot on 13 attempts in the second half and overtime for his record-setting performance.
"I really let my teammates down in the first half," Bezhanishvili said. "Coach told me that in front of everybody at halftime. He said, 'Giorgi, you've got bad energy. You've got to change your energy.' Usually I bring good energy, I told him, "I've got you coach. I will change my energy." That's what I did, and that's what happened. "
While the 35-point performance was Bezhanishvili's best since arriving at Illinois, it still fell short of his all-time career high.
" I think my career high was 46 – the best in youth league back home, "he said. "But the competition is not that good, so it's not really an accomplishment. To do it here against the best competition in the nation was a great feeling. … I usually don't score that much."
Bezhanishvili didn ' do much scoring in his one year high school basketball at The Patrick School in New Jersey last season. The 6-foot-9 forward was the Celtics fourth-leading scorer in 2017-18, putting up just eight points per game. He had just six offers, with Minnesota and Seton Hall his only other high-major looks. "They said they didn't have a scholarship for me. That was pretty funny. I played in New Jersey. Nobody really looked at me. "Work pays off."
Bezhanishvili's averaging 12.2 points and a team-leading five rebounds for Illinois. He's the Illini's third-leading scorer behind Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu, who had 17 and 12 points, respectively, Saturday against Rutgers. Bezhanishvili, though, is looking more and more like a recruiting steal for the Illini. "" For a young man that didn't have a lot of recruitment, I think he's proven he's a pretty good player, "said Underwood, who regularly discounts individual player rankings. "I thought he was a phenomenal fit and he still is in the pinch post because of his IQ and feel, but he's blossomed into a really good low-post player. His feet are phenomenal. We knew he had good feet, pays to take dance Now, he starts making free throws and he becomes a guy who is a difficult guard because you can't foul him. "Rutgers didn't have much of an answer defensively. The Scarlet Knights have several looks at the Illinois big man with the same amount of success – not much.
"He was a real difficult matchup, and he had it going," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "I thought we did a good job on their guards. Their guards have been killing people. block and for instituting a different level of confidence in his game.
"Maybe in high school I wasn't that confident to play," Bezhanishvili said. "Now, my teammates give me confidence. Giorgi, you've got it. Let's go." My teammates are huge with that. I just want to thank them. That's my new family here. "