Player grades from Illinois’ 10-point win over Wisconsin

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Jacob Slabosz

Freshman guard Jayden Epps takes a shot against Indiana on Jan. 19. On Saturday, Epps finished the game against Wisconsin with 13 points on 5-10 shooting.

By Drew Friberg, Carson Gourdie and James Kim

The Illini scraped by in the first half of Saturday’s game against the Badgers. Just 36 points scored by both teams in the first half, some of the conference’s leading scorers were the coldest they’ve been all season.

Some abysmal shooting in the first half actually turned into a mature second half from Underwood’s side. One of his transfers decided to go for a season high, while the rest of the team minimized their mistakes. Although not a typical recipe for success, the Illini came out of Madison with a road conference win, as some players continue to impress.

Coleman Hawkins: B

After coming off one of his best performances of the season last time out, Coleman was relatively tame on Saturday.

Hawkins is super inconsistent scoring-wise, as displayed all season, but games like this are where he should be stepping up a bit more. He scored just five points on three attempts, but pulled down nine rebounds while staying out of foul trouble against Wisconsin’s bigs. 

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    Hats off to Coleman for continuing to play a big role even without scoring all the time. But man, if he can channel a double-double, this team is unstoppable.

    Dain Dainja: A-

    The paint had every right to be called the “Dainja Zone” on Saturday. 

    Dainja willed his team through the first half. His inside scoring was pretty good against a formidable big, and he did his part in getting Wahl and Crowl in foul trouble.

    All of Dainja’s nine points were big, and he was a large reason for the Illini’s success in Madison.

    Terrence Shannon Jr.: C-

    Shannon was anonymous against Wisconsin in what was an uncharacteristic performance. The senior guard scored a mere six points on 2-6 shooting from the floor and 2-2 free throw shooting. In addition to being scoreless at halftime, Shannon turned the ball over six times over the course of the game. His signature ability to drive to the rim was ineffective and he couldn’t get into any real offensive flow. 

    RJ Melendez: D+

    Melendez’s shooting struggles continued on Saturday, with the sophomore guard only converting one of his six attempts from the floor. In addition to shooting 0-4 from the three, Melendez was only able to register a single assist. We’re still yet to see him truly explode offensively this season. 

    Ty Rodgers: N/A

    Shot 0-2 from the free throw line in eight minutes and recorded a single rebound.

    Matthew Mayer: A+

    A criticism of Mayer wasn’t that he couldn’t score: it’s that the points didn’t come in clutch situations. Today, Mayer shook off that label in a big way. 

    Behind 26 points — 15 of them coming from deep — Mayer led the Illini to victory. While the Illini struggled to shoot, Mayer balance of attacking inside and out left the Badgers speechless. 

    Is the Baylor transfer officially the Illini biggest X factor?

    Jayden Epps: A-

    While Shannon struggled to find his groove, Epps played well as Mayer’s sidekick today. Epps finished with 13 points on 5-10 shooting and did a fantastic job hanging around the paint for easy buckets. Epps was caught flatfooted on defense early on, but the freshman recovered nicely and provided a strong performance. 

    Sencire Harris: N/A 

    The freshman only played nine minutes today, and his statline was quite boring: zero points, one assist, two rebounds and a turnover. The Illini needed offense today, and Harris wouldn’t have been able to deliver. 

     

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