No. 19 Illinois men’s basketball upsets No. 8 UCLA in Las Vegas behind Shannon Jr.’s 29 points

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Sydney Laput

Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. blocks Kansas City on Nov. 11.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Illinois men’s basketball knocked off No. 8 UCLA on Friday night in Las Vegas’ Continental Tire Main Event by a score of 79-70. Senior transfer guard Terrence Shannon Jr.’s 29 points inspired the Illini’s win, as he ended up with another double-double with 10 rebounds.

Head coach Brad Underwood stuck to what he knew on Friday, with freshman guard Skyy Clark, Shannon, sophomore guard RJ Melendez, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer and junior forward Coleman Hawkins starting on the floor for the Illini.

This high-intensity affair began with four turnovers between the two teams in the first four possessions. Illinois broke the deadlock two minutes in with a Melendez three, but was quickly followed up by a three point play by UCLA’s Adem Bona. The three was on for the Illini early, as they went 3-3 from beyond the arc, leading 10-8 at the five-minute mark.

After a hot start, both teams settled down as the half went on. Redshirt sophomore forward Dain Dainja checked in and began working the paint, finding his first two of the night followed by a slam for two more. After a 7-0 run by the Bruins was stopped by Dainja, Shannon rubbed salt in the wounds with two more from the line. The score was 18-12 Illinois just 10 minutes in.

Another 7-0 run by UCLA brought the Bruins level at 21-21, but a floater by freshman guard Jayden Epps put the Illini back up.

A cold stretch from three led the Illini to their first deficit of the night, as the Bruins took control at 25-23. With under four minutes to play, Illinois had 12 turnovers in the match. A big difference maker in the match early on, UCLA had just six to Illinois’ 12.

At halftime it was the Bruins who led, 37-28. UCLA’s Tyger Campbell rounded out the half as top scorer, with Shannon leading Illinois as he earned his double-double with two to play in the first. Despite the early hot shooting from beyond the arc from Illinois, it ended the half 5-12 from three and 10-21 overall with 13 turnovers.

As the second half began, the Bruins extended their run to 17-0 and pulled out ahead even further before Shannon’s three and freshman guard Sencire Harris’ two steals ended this run. Harris’ pressure high up the court set up Illinois for two more opportunities to score, but two turnovers from Clark undid the Illini’s progress. After five minutes in the second half, Illinois trailed 38-46.

A Shannon three from deep cut the deficit to just five after a turbulent twenty minutes for the Illini, and Clark cut the lead down even more with another three point play.

Illinois’ run continued with a three point play by Dainja, immediately followed by a reverse layup from Clark to put the Illini up 53-52. This was the first time the Illini led in the match for 20 minutes.

Harris’ inclusion in the second half made all the difference. The freshman brought a more revitalized press, leading to more Bruin turnovers in 12 minutes than they had in the entire first half. Additionally, Harris’ set of two field goals early in the second half began Illinois’ run, and also extended the Illini’s lead.

With five minutes to go in the match, Shannon hit back to back threes to put Illinois up 63-59. At this point, Illinois had just five turnovers in the second half, after having 13 in the first. The Bruins on the other hand, had nine.

Shannon’s excellent game continued with his second block of the match and his eighth three pointer of the night. He finished the match 8-9 from three and 9-13 overall. His best performance in Illinois colors thus far, Shannon’s 29-point performance led all scorers on Friday night.

With a minute to go, Illinois led by 10 points, and the Illini carried this momentum over the finish line, knocking off the Bruins 79-70 with a Clark dagger to seal it.

The Illini remain a perfect 4-0 on the season and will take on No. 16 Virginia on Sunday.

 

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