Clark, Melendez fire No. 16 Illinois men’s basketball to 33-point victory over Lindenwood

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Sydney Laput

Freshman guard Skyy Clark is introduced for the starting lineup for the game against Kansas City on Nov. 11.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 16 Illinois enjoyed a comfortable 92-59 win on Friday in what was quite the mismatch fixture against Lindenwood. The Illini returned to Champaign following the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas last week and got back on track with its fifth victory of 2022-23.

Head coach Brad Underwood made no changes to the starting lineup he’s utilized in every game so far. Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Skyy Clark, sophomore guard RJ Melendez, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer and junior forward Coleman Hawkins were the first five to take the floor for Illinois.

The Lions started off well in the first few minutes, keeping the score close to start. Melendez got Illinois its first points of the game with an and-one play but Lindenwood was able to respond and stay ahead during the opening two minutes. The Illini took over soon after, however, thanks to a layup by Melendez and a signature dunk by Shannon.

Freshman guard Sencire Harris continued to impress early on, scoring a bucket a mere 30 seconds after taking the floor. Harris followed up his quick impact by forcing a turnover and finishing with a dunk.

After struggling to run away on the scoreboard early on, the Illini began to amp up their play and went on a 17-2 run that lasted 4:38. Melendez was an instrumental part of this run, showcasing his skill and athleticism to finish the half with 15 points. The sophomore shot 6-8 from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.

Clark followed closely in the scoring department with 13 points and was a sharpshooter for Illinois, shooting an impressive 5-6 from the field, 3-4 from three.

The Illini led 49-25 at the break after a dominant first period of play.

Illinois started the second half right where it left off. Clark wasted no time in slamming home a dunk to start the half before assisting Shannon, who drew an and-one. The Illini got to 60 points off of baskets from Shannon, Melendez and redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja before falling into a scoring drought that lasted 3:28. The Lions got things going offensively and enjoyed an 11-0 run before junior center Brandon Lieb ended the Illini’s drought with an and-one finish, off the assist by Harris.

Mayer had another quiet night and only managed to get on the scoreboard with 10:54 left in the game. However, after converting two free throws the forward made back to back shots from three-point range to quickly take his total to eight.

The final five minutes were all Illinois, who maintained its large advantage over the visitors. Clark finished as the Illini’s top scorer of the night with 19 points, followed by Melendez with 17 points and Shannon with 16 points.

Illinois is now 5-1 on the season and will be back home on Tuesday to welcome Syracuse to Champaign.

 

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