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

Illini waltz out of break with 32-point victory against Western Illinois

Olivia McAfoos
Fifth-year Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. makes a huge grin as he pumps up for the game against Marquette on Nov. 14. Shannon ended the night with 19 points against Western Illinois.

Following a festive team Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Illinois men’s basketball (4-1) arose from its food coma to face Western Illinois (2-3) Friday night. Still basking in the glow of Sunday’s 88-60 victory over Southern University, Illinois returned to the State Farm Center poised to build upon its record. The Illini met and exceeded fans’ hopes, bringing home a handsome 84-52 triumph over their challengers from the west.

As a result of a left knee injury, senior forward Coleman Hawkins has been out for the Illini for the past three games, according to the Big Ten’s availability report. In his absence, redshirt junior forward Dain Dainja has served to round out the starting five. Dainja was joined by the usual suspects: fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr., sophomore guard Ty Rodgers, graduate student forward Quincy Guerrier and graduate student forward Marcus Domask.

The Leathernecks started with the ball, ultimately failing to make their shot. Guerrier then clinched two points for the Illini following a short offensive struggle. Western Illinois scored its first two points, after which Rodgers committed the first foul of the game for Illinois.

An impressive stint of ball handling by Domask freed up Dainja to pounce on the shot, scoring two points for the Illini. Dainja then sought to repeat the shot but was rejected by the Western Illinois defense, leaving Illinois with a two-point lead.

As Western Illinois gained on Illinois, the Illinois defense demonstrated its preparedness. After a foul from the Leathernecks, Rodgers checked, resulting in a fast-paced offensive hustle from the Illini. 

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    In response to a promising three-pointer by Shannon and a score by Domask, Western Illinois made a single shot before yielding the floor back to Domask, who secured Illinois a nine-point lead.

    A missed three-pointer by sophomore Luke Goode was not symptomatic of poor play from the guard. The Indiana native bounced back from his first miss, making two consecutive three-pointers for the Illini, snatching a 15-point lead and bringing the score to 21-6.

    Despite a period of promising play from Western Illinois, freshman guard Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn was able to rebound.

    Both teams stumbled for a moment, with Western Illinois missing a shot and Illinois following its lead moments after, but the streak was eventually broken by a Western Illinois dunk. However, the Illini did not allow the glory to last long, with a layup from Guerrier, a jumper from Gibbs-Lawhorn and a layup from Dainja padding the team’s lead and bringing the score to 27-16.

    In response to an and-one Western Illinois layup, Shannon brought home a three-point shot for Illinois.

    A pair of successful free throws by the Leathernecks enlivened the Illini, setting the stage for a series of impressive offensive plays including a Dainja layup and a Goode three-pointer.

    According to head coach Brad Underwood, the team proves to be “something lethal” when each of the players’ strengths are celebrated and employed on the court.

    “I hope there’s confidence, I hope there’s trust,” Underwood said.

    With just under two minutes left in the first half, the Illini defense rejected the Leathernecks from a layup, consequently frolicking across the court with ease and setting up a layup for graduate student guard Justin Harmon.

    At the half, the Illini held a 17-point advantage over the Leathernecks. Looking forward to the second half, Illinois had optimistic prospects, with the score standing firm at 40-23.

    The Illini were off to a strong start to the second half, with a pair of successful shots from Guerrier and Rodgers further fortifying the team’s position in the game. These shots inspired Western to make some offensive headway — first clinching a jumper and then a three-pointer before heeding the floor to Shannon, who further deepened the Illinois lead. 

    With the score at 47-28, Western took the offensive and eventually secured a two-point layup. The teams then passed the advantage back and forth, with a Hansberry layup and a Western Illinois score soon thereafter. 

    The Leathernecks continued to gain on the Illini, but a firm defensive performance and watchful eye from the Illini caused their visitors from the West to falter on a pair of three-point shots.

    After Goode missed his own three-pointer, Western Illinois gained on Illinois and invited them to dance on the defensive line. The Illini quickly reversed this trend with an offensive charge and a pair of three-pointers from Shannon.

    In response to this showing, Western Illinois met Illinois with a layup, to which Illinois presented its offensive response: Dainja. A Dainja dunk followed by a Shannon three-pointer once again reinforced the Illini lead.

    Following a struggle on the defense and a few offensive plays by Western Illinois, Illinois rained on their parade with a layup by Hansberry, yet another Shannon three-pointer, a score from Rodgers and a layup from Dainja.

    Underwood credited Dainja with the win, referring to the junior as the player of the game.

    “Hats off to Dain Dainja,” Underwood said.

    After Western Illinois made a series of attempts at decreasing Illinois’ lead, the endeavors proved fruitless, with a Shannon three-pointer, Rodgers layup and Dainja layup padding the lead.

    Friday’s game ended with a series of plucky Western Illinois charges and strong demonstrations of Illinois defense.

    Despite a noble showing and several offensive struggles from Western Illinois in the second half, Illinois proved victorious in Friday’s matchup, ultimately securing a score of 84-52.

    According to Underwood, the team is using games like these to get back to a “Kansas, Marquette caliber.”

    “You might not be very stressed about the outcome, but you see how to get to it,” Underwood said.

    Underwood said he is optimistic about the team’s future.

    “I do think we have the chance, defensively, to be something special,” Underwood said.

    Illinois will once again get on its grindset on Dec. 2 in a Piscataway, New Jersey faceoff against Rutgers.


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    Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
    Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
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