Illinois overcame an early trend of slow starts to dominate Southern in a decisive 88-60 win on Sunday. Despite facing deficits of at least eight points in each of its first three games against low or mid-major opponents, the Illini led nearly wire-to-wire against Southern.
Terrence Shannon Jr. had a standout performance, scoring a game-high 24 points while Dain Dainja added 12 and Quincy Guerrier had 10 points and six rebounds. Freshman big Amani Hansberry also made a significant contribution off the bench, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing out three assists.
Dainja set the tone for the Illini’s offense early on, scoring 10 points in the first 6:40 and making their first four field goals. He was double-digits for the second straight game, filling in for the injured Coleman Hawkins. Niccolo Moretti provided an offensive spark off the bench for the second straight game as well, scoring four points, setting up three assists and grabbing three rebounds before leaving with an ankle injury late in the first half. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn also exited with an injury in the final minute.
Southern attempted to keep pace with Illinois by speeding them up with turnovers early on. The Illini finished with 21 turnovers after having 10 in just the first 16 minutes. Shannon put Illinois ahead by double digits late in the first half with a personal 12-point run that left Southern struggling to keep up.
Illinois opened up a commanding lead of 34 points in the second half after Luke Goode hit three triples following halftime. Goode has been instrumental in Illinois’ offensive success this season, making three or more threes in four of their five games so far. Next up for Illinois is a matchup against Western Illinois at home on Friday at 8 p.m.. Follow Anderson Kimball on Twitter @AndyKimball_IL