Player grades from Illinois men’s basketball’s loss to Ohio State


James Hoeck

Guard R.J. Melendez gets the ball to the opposing side of the court on Thursday. Melendez showed growth in his role for the team during his play time against Ohio on Sunday.

By Carson Gourdie and Adam Rosen

Illinois men’s basketball looked as if it was ready to pull off the same type of performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes that they did against the No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats. An ugly first half followed by storming back in the second half to win in chaotic fashion.

However, it did not go down that way, as Illinois could not turn a 12-point deficit to an Illinois lead, as they fell 72-60. Looking at four players in particular, Terrence Shannon Jr., R.J. Melendez, Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja, there were some performances to learn from.

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Coleman Hawkins: B-

Hawkins played 38 of the 40 minutes in the loss, and was one of four Illini to reach double digits, leading the way with 14 points. However, the junior forward turned the ball over three times, and at times passed up on open shots. He lacked the confidence seen in earlier trademark performances despite dropping 14.

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    Regardless, Hawkins was without a doubt the best player on the floor today for Illinois, and continued to show how much of a leader he was by utilizing his energy. 

    Terrence Shannon Jr.: D+

    Shannon’s first half was almost the same as the one he had against the aforementioned Wildcats. Shannon went 1-for-6 in the first half, and almost instantly fell into foul trouble. 

    Shannon looked like he would take over in the second half, but once again could not find his shot, only making two of his last six shots, before fouling out with two minutes left in the game. Shannon also turned the ball over four times, which was the most on the team.

    R.J. Melendez: B

    Melendez only played 23 minutes, but he continued to show growth during a very difficult season for the sophomore guard. 

    Melendez made all of his shots, with five points and a pair of rebounds. Melendez has shown a lot of growth in the last week, and today showed he still can be a productive player. 

    Dain Dainja: D

    Dainja played only eight minutes, and only recorded one rebound with no points. This is the second game in a row where Dainja played less than 20 minutes. 

    It’s difficult to grade his performance in such a limited sample size, but details remain to be given about why he hasn’t played that much lately.

    Matthew Mayer: C-

    Mayer broke the double-digit point plateau, but he once again battled inefficiency and settled for too many three-point shots. Granted, Mayer is one of the Illini’s best perimeter threats, but 10 out of his 11 shot attempts came from deep. Mayer, who’s 6 feet 9 inches tall and athletic, is underestimating his ability to test defenses in the paint, which can lead to free-throw attempts. 

    Sencire Harris: D+

    Harris only registered 13 minutes of play, but he did try to make an impact on the court — although it wasn’t effective. 

    Harris finished with two points on 1-4 shooting. But why did Harris attempt a trio of three-pointers — missing each of them? Harris is a fine player in transition but settling for perimeter shots should be taken out of his game. Harris isn’t alone, though. Illinois finished 6-29 as a team today from deep.

    Jayden Epps: C

    Epps played his worst game yet against Northwestern, as he finished with zero points and barely played the second half. While he didn’t perform particularly well against Ohio State, it was nice to see Epps bounce back slightly. 

    He finished with 10 points on 3-10 shooting and showed some aggression getting to the rim. However, like Harris and Mayer, Epps shot too many three-pointers. Aside from a prolific night against Minnesota, Epps is 7-47 from deep in 10 games. 


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