The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

‘We’re excited to get started’: No. 25 Illinois opens 2023-24 season with Eastern Illinois clash

Guard%2Fforward+Ty+Rodgers+pushes+through+Eastern+Illinois+defense+during+the+first+official+game+of+the+season+on+Monday+night.
James Hoeck
Guard/forward Ty Rodgers pushes through Eastern Illinois defense during the first official game of the season on Monday night.

Coming off an impressive two-game preseason spell, No. 25 Illinois men’s basketball will be jumping into the official season with a mountain of hype and anticipation on its shoulders. The Illini will be welcoming the Eastern Illinois Panthers to Champaign to kickoff the 2023-24 season.

“It’s exciting to get another season started,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “We’re obviously coming off what we think was a very, very good preseason. It actually started with us in Spain and obviously two exhibition games where we’ve been in front of our fans.”

After welcoming numerous high-caliber transfers and returning key starters in fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and senior forward Coleman Hawkins, the Illini looked to be in good shape ahead of their return to the court. This was reinforced by a 51-point exhibition win over Ottawa on Oct. 20, where fans at the State Farm Center were given plenty of reasons for excitement following strong performances across the squad.

However, it was the second and final exhibition that drew not only conference attention, but the national spotlight as well. On Oct. 29, all eyes were on Champaign as No. 1 Kansas came to town, quite the step up from Illinois’ first exhibition. However, despite having the top-ranked team in the country lined up across the court, the Illini did not falter.

In fact, Underwood’s squad thrived under the pressure, playing high energy basketball and outworking the visiting Jayhawks to earn an impressive 82-75 victory. With the official start to the season now upon us, it’s safe to say the 2023-24 Illini will be coming in having made quite the first impression.

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    “Now these (games) all count,” Underwood said. “We’ve tried to manage the week in a positive way, dial in a lot of scenarios, talk about situations and presses and late game stuff, so all of those start to come into play.”

    Monday will see the eighth-ever meeting between Illinois and Eastern Illinois. The Illini have never lost to the Panthers, owning a 7-0 record against their in-state opponents. For Underwood’s returning players it’ll be a familiar matchup, with Eastern Illinois serving as the team’s opening matchup last season as well, the contest resulting in a comfortable 87-57 win for Illinois.

    While the Illini certainly made a statement in their preseason games, they’ll be playing for all the marbles from this point forward. The sea of orange at the State Farm Center will be anticipating a lopsided victory while the Panthers will be traveling to Champaign in search of a historic first win against the ranked Illini program.

    No. 25 Illinois men’s basketball will tip off its 119th season at 7 p.m. on Monday night. After months of waiting, the 2023-24 college basketball season is here.

    “We’re excited to get started,” Underwood said, “We’re excited for our fans. This is game one of what we hope is a great, great five months, and we’re looking forward to getting it kicked off.”

     

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    About the Contributors
    James Kim, Sports Editor
    My name is James Kim and I’m a senior studying English with a minor in business. This is my third year with The Daily Illini and it’s been an amazing ride so far. When I joined in fall 2021, I began as a staff writer for the sports section where I covered women’s tennis. In spring 2022, I became an assistant sports editor and started covering soccer and Illinois men’s basketball. From spring 2023 onwards I’ve been working as the sports editor! In addition to being an Illini and Real Madrid fanatic, I also love watching movies and TV shows. If you have any questions about writing for The DI, you can reach me at my email below. I-L-L!
    James Hoeck, Photo Editor
    Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.
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