Illinois has been battling hard with No. 2 Baylor, and it was the performance of Giorgi Bezhanishvili that kept the Illini close heading into halftime.

At the break, the Bears carried a 31-30 lead to the locker room. That may not be exactly what the Illini were hoping for, but it could have been much worse.

Starting center Kofi Cockburn had to sit early and for much of the first half after picking up two fouls. He only had two points prior to his second foul, but his presence on the inside was definitely a key part of the game.

The rest of the starting five for the Illini have also struggled against Baylor. Adam Miller was just 2-for-8 shooting for four points with Ayo Dosunmu shooting 1-for-6 for three points heading into the break. Starters also produced just three assists in the first 20 minutes of action.

That makes the performance of Bezhanishvili all the more important. The junior forward came off the bench to pour in a game-high 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting at the break. Bezhanishvili added three offensive rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block.

If not for Bezhanishvili, the Illini could be facing a double-digit deficit instead of trailing by just one point. Even with Bezhanishvili’s work, Illinois will need to do a better job controlling the ball after eight turnovers in the first half.