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

Notes, player grades from No. 24 Illinois’ Big Ten-opening victory over Rutgers

James Hoeck
Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. holds position of the ball as Eastern Illinois guard Isaiah Griffin follows to defend on Nov. 6.

No. 24 Illinois men’s basketball got off to a strong start in the 2023-24 Big Ten campaign after securing a dominant 76-58 victory over Rutgers at the RAC in New Jersey on Saturday. Led by big performances from their star players, the Illini started and ended the game strong despite a lull in the middle. Now 1-0 in the conference, the squad will be carrying a four-game win streak into the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Illinois needs to find a response to the full-court press

There were a lot of positives to take away from the Illini’s performance against the Scarlet Knights. Terrence Shannon Jr. dropped another star performance. The transfers in Quincy Guerrier, Marcus Domask and Justin Harmon looked more than comfortable at one of the most hostile venues in the Big Ten. Coleman Hawkins returned from injury and Illinois started the game hot.

However, the middle of the game saw an alarming drop off as Rutgers managed to battle its way from being down nearly 20 points to back within a single possession. While there were numerous reasons for this, arguably the most prominent was the evident panic across the floor once the Scarlet Knights began a full-court press against the Illini. The momentum flipped in the blink of an eye. Despite dominating the opening five to 10 minutes of the game, Illinois quickly fell apart as the added pressure led to turnovers galore and a significant scoring run for Rutgers. While the halftime break allowed the Illini to reset and turn things around, it’s an area that the squad needs to figure out before March.

Illinois’ starting five players are indicated with *.

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* Terrence Shannon Jr. (A+)

Shannon stole the show on Saturday, proving once again why he is one of the best players in the conference. The fifth-year guard secured a double-double consisting of 23 points and 10 rebounds while bringing life back into the team during rough stretches of the game. Despite committing a team-high five turnovers, Shannon managed to make up for it in the long run by shooting lights out from three and continuing to show his defensive ability with a team-high of two blocks.

The Chicago native also demonstrated his playmaking ability with a couple nice feeds into the Illini forwards. The Scarlet Knights were unable to stop Shannon from cooking as the guard ran riot at the RAC.

* Ty Rodgers (B)

Typically an efficient downhill presence for the Illini, Rodgers’ shots were not going down like usual against the Scarlet Knights. Despite this, he was a hounding defender as always. This led to a bit of foul trouble (4) and slightly reduced minutes (27), but his effort on the glass was strong throughout. Rodgers was Illinois’ leading offensive rebounder (3), generating the extra possessions that head coach Brad Underwood has been so desperately looking for. Rutgers’ full court press got the better of Rodgers on a couple of occasions and contributed to three turnovers, but he ultimately evened that out with three assists.

* Marcus Domask (A+)

Domask looked sharp shooting from the field on Saturday and shot 6-13 for 15 points by the end of regulation. Alongside Shannon and Guerrier, Domask was by and large one of the Illini’s top performers. Just three rebounds away from securing his first double-double, the graduate student forward looked confident finishing from close range and was a positive presence on the defensive end for Illinois. Needless to say, it was one of Domask’s most complete performances so far this season.

* Quincy Guerrier (A+)

Illinois was blessed with some of Guerrier’s best play in an orange and blue jersey in the beginning of this game. Offensive rebounds, a three pointer, a poster dunk and tough finishing through contact contributed to the Illini’s massive early lead. That was about it for the rest of the game and Guerrier ended up playing just 17 total minutes, but that juice was absolutely critical for Illinois by the final whistle.

* Coleman Hawkins (B)

In his first game back from injury, Hawkins got a lot of time on the floor. This was an encouraging development for the Illini, who usually feature Hawkins as a focal point on both ends of the floor. There was a bit of rust on the offensive end which translated to a 3-9 overall night and Hawkins missing both of his three point attempts.

However, the defensive end was a different story. It didn’t show up in the counting statistics, where Hawkins totaled just one block, but as a whole Illinois outscored Rutgers by 25 points with him on the floor. This was a team-high margin and is reflective of how much the Illini benefited from his presence.

Luke Goode (A)

Goode’s role as a bench shooter isn’t the flashiest, but he has been fulfilling it to perfection lately. Illinois as a whole has struggled from three at times, making his presence that much more valuable. He finished the evening in Piscataway with nine points on an efficient 2-5 mark from deep. The value wasn’t just in outside shooting on Saturday afternoon, as Goode also picked up three assists and picked up three points from work inside the arc.

Justin Harmon (A)

Harmon looks like he’s becoming more and more comfortable in his role. The guard came off the bench and was efficient, something the Illini desperately needed to get out of the hole near the end of the first half. With seven points on 3-6 shooting and four rebounds on the night, it was a very positive display from Harmon’s 20 minutes on the floor.

Dain Dainja (B-)

After starting the past few games in Hawkins’ absence, Dainja had to come off the bench on Saturday and wasn’t able to truly find his footing. After shooting 2-6 from the field and grabbing four rebounds in eight minutes, the redshirt forward’s night came to an end after the first half.

Amani Hansberry (N/A)

Hansberry shot 0-1 from the field, grabbed one rebound and committed three personal fouls in five minutes on the court.

Niccolo Moretti (DNP)

After having to exit Illinois’ victory over Southern two weeks ago due to a foot injury, Moretti remained out against Rutgers. It is still unclear when the sophomore guard will return.

Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (DNP)

Gibbs-Lawhorn did not play against Rutgers.


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About the Contributors
James Kim
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!
Conor Blount
Conor Blount, Senior Sports Reporter
My name is Conor Blount. I’m a junior in aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. I joined The Daily Illini in the summer of 2022 as a beat writer for the sports section and am now one of three assistant sports editors. My first beat was women’s tennis before I moved to women’s basketball in the spring. I also had the pleasure of covering several former Illini at the 2023 NFL draft and NBA summer league. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the email below.
James Hoeck
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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