No. 16 Illinois men’s basketball sinks to a devastating 93-71 Braggin’ Rights defeat against Missouri

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Sidney Malone

Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. sprints across the court during game against Syracuse on Nov. 29. Despite efforts, the Illini fell to Missouri during tonight’s game at St. Louis.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Thursday night in St. Louis saw the Braggin’ Rights land with Missouri, who triumphed over No. 16 Illinois by a  dominant 93-71 scoreline. Despite getting back into the win column last week against Alabama A&M, Illinois collapsed against its rivals and is now 8-4 on the season.

Head coach Brad Underwood began with senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Skyy Clark, sophomore guard RJ Melendez, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer and junior forward Coleman Hawkins on the floor. Melendez rejoined the starting five against Missouri after freshman guard Jayden Epps filled his guard spot last week.

Missouri wasted little time in getting off to a 6-0 advantage. Illinois struggled in the opening minutes despite countless open looks from beyond the arc. Shannon opened the scoring for the Illini with a finish from close before Mayer hit a contested three to cut the deficit to one.

Shannon gave the Illini their first lead of the night after drawing the and-one and completing the three-point play. Illinois led 10-8 with 14:48 left in the first period following Shannon’s free throw.

Despite the momentum, Illinois went cold quickly and couldn’t get anything to fall. The Illini suffered a 6:21 scoring drought, allowing Missouri to enjoy a dominant 20-2 run.

The Illini’s frustrations continued through the first half as turnovers, fouls and a sharp Tigers offense all continued to dig the visitors into a deeper hole. Both offensively and defensively, the Illini looked completely lost and the Tigers took advantage of their sheer lack of stability. The absence of a true leader that Underwood lamented against Penn State was extremely prominent against Missouri.

The first period of play concluded with the Tigers leading the Illini 51-27. Illinois shot an extremely poor 32.1% from the field compared to Missouri’s 58.8%. With nine turnovers and seven fouls committed, the Illini endured one of the poorest halves of the 2022-23 season up to this point. The energy was non-existent.

Coming out of the break, the Illini immediately added three points to its score thanks to Shannon, who opened the second-half scoring after finishing another and-one. Missouri continued strong shooting from around the floor with Mayer’s back-to-back threes being Illinois’ only response.

Tigers forward Kobe Brown couldn’t stop scoring, with his third three sinking the Illini into a 30-point deficit. Missouri got going on an 8-0 run soon after as Illinois, like in the first half, suffered long, scoreless stretches.

There were very few positives for the Illini aside from the continued defensive energy from freshman guard Sencire Harris. Hawkins, who struggled immensely throughout the night, managed a two-handed dunk following a Tigers turnover, but it did little to spark any momentum for the visitors.

With 11:52 remaining in the contest, Illinois finally managed to get going, enjoying a 7-0 run after impressive buckets from Epps and Harris. This run soon turned into a 12-2 run after a Harris three and Shannon layup, but the deficit was too great to overcome. Brown finished the night with 31 points as Missouri kept chugging away on the scoreboard. The Illini were able to get occasional runs going throughout the closing minutes, but the Braggin’ Rights belonged to the Tigers. Shannon finished the night as the Illini’s top scorer with 22 points.

By the end of regulation, the scoreboard read 93-71 as Illinois fell to its Braggin’ Rights rivals Missouri. The Illini will return to Champaign next week to welcome Bethune-Cookman to State Farm Center on December 29th.

 

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