Notes, player grades from Illinois’ nine-point victory over Ohio State

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Caden Bargowski

Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. battles against Ohio State’s defense on Tuesday. Shannon made 17 points during the Illini’s match against Ohio State.

By James Kim, Carson Gourdie, and Drew Friberg

After suffering a bad loss against Indiana last Thursday, Illinois was able to recover and rebound against Ohio State in Champaign. The Illini saw solid performances from across their squad and didn’t have to rely on one individual to lift them to victory. In addition to Shannon, Hawkins and Mayer putting in good shifts, Illinois was boosted by big performances from secondary players like Ty Rodgers.

Rebounding, fast breaks
The Illini’s key to victory on Tuesday night stemmed from their hustle. Simply put, Illinois played faster and harder than Ohio State. In addition to snagging 14 more rebounds than the visitors, the Illini also scored 16 points off fast breaks compared to the Buckeyes’ one.

With players like Shannon, one of the best transition players in the country, Illinois pounced on every opportunity to drive the ball down the floor for quick buckets. The Illini continued to dominate in the rebounding department and fought harder than the Buckeyes to snag the ball in the paint. The tough, aggressive play on the court led to Illinois outshining the visitors throughout both halves.

Terrence Shannon Jr.: A-
Another day, another top performance from Shannon. The senior guard finished the night with 17 points against Ohio State and shot a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line. Shannon was fearless in getting to the rim and went at the Buckeyes’ defense time and time again.

The Illini’s offense was more effective with Shannon on the floor and the team was +14 with him out there. In addition to scoring, he pulled down seven rebounds, just three shy of recording a double-double. The Illini fans were also treated to a signature Shannon steal and transition dunk that brought the building to its feet.

Jayden Epps: B

Epps did a great job of attacking the rim tonight and scored regularly inside amid his arrival to the starting lineup.

Finishing with 13 points, the only concern with Epps offense tonight was his inefficiency from the three point line — finishing 2-8. Still, even though he missed, he had open looks and didn’t force up shots. He is beginning to look more comfortable knowing that he is the main point guard, and the Illini thrive when he plays well.

Matthew Mayer: B+

Mayer had an awful game against Indiana, which Underwood attributed to his senior coming down with an illness. However, Mayer returned to double-digit scoring today.

Mayer finished with 12 points on 3-9 shooting. While he didn’t shoot fantastic, Mayer was able to make it up by earning trips to the free throw line — and making four out of five attempts. Add in some success from the three-point line, and Mayer passed in his first game since the Indiana debacle.

On defense, Mayer was able to block some shots and was a force on the board, grabbing eight rebounds. One concern: Mayer fouled out.

Coleman Hawkins: B+
He was quiet in the first half, but this felt like one of the first times Hawkins was able to balance being effective off the statsheet, while having good stats to pair with it.

Just one rebound away from a double double, Hawkins scored 11 points and tallied six assists. His points were all big, momentum swinging, points and he made it easier for his team to score. He was a force on the boards and — in his own words — “played tough.”

Even when the refs were calling the Illini bigs harshly, he maintained composure and continued to play great defense. All around, great match from Coleman.

Dain Dainja: D+
Dain was on the other end of Coleman’s spectrum tonight. He wasn’t very effective in any part of the game, and limited his own minutes through silly mistakes.

Two fouls in the first six minutes of play is bad, even when the referees aren’t exactly helping him out. But, to go and do that two halves in a row, in a game where you had the keys to dominate the paint, that’s pretty bad.

Just 13 minutes Dainja was on the court tonight, and just six points scored. After such promising things in recent weeks, it seems like Dainja is back at square one.

Ty Rodgers: A+
Simply put, Rodgers was spectacular on Tuesday night. The freshman made the most of his 15 minutes on the floor, bringing waves of energy to the Illini and serving as an active presence on the floor. After missing an open layup in the first half, Rodgers turned things around and finished his next two attempts in fashion.

The guard showed his skill in spinning around Buckeyes defenders and finishing a difficult floater, and showed his sharp reading of the game with his quick assist to an open Hawkins. Rodgers was also tied with Mayer as the Illini’s second best rebounder of the night, snagging eight rebounds off the bench.

RJ Melendez: C-
It was a fairly poor night from Melendez, who just couldn’t get anything to fall. Aside from an impressive and-one finish early in the game, the sophomore shot blanks and was 1-6 overall from the floor. With just three rebounds and nothing else to show in 30 minutes on the floor, Melendez’s presence just wasn’t felt against the Buckeyes.

Sencire Harris: C

Off the bench, Harris only took a couple of shots today, and he nearly made one of his three-point attempts. Overall, this was a very quiet game from Harris, and he continues to perform better on the defensive end.

The defense was solid today, he didn’t make any highlight plays — although he did finish with a +/- of 3 today. Finishing with zero forced turnovers, the Illini had to settle for pretty good on-ball defense and hustle in transition.

 

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