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

No. 2 Illinois advances past No. 10 Ohio State in heated Big Ten quarterfinal

Olivia McAfoos
Fifth year Terrence Shannon Jr. excitedly returns back to the Illinois bench after Purdue calls a timeout on Mar. 5.

It’s postseason time for Illinois men’s basketball, and head coach Brad Underwood’s squad got off to a positive start on Friday night in Minneapolis with a quarterfinal win. The No. 2-seeded Illini survived a tight battle against the No. 10-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten tournament to book their spot in the semifinals.

There were no changes to the lineup for Illinois, which fielded its starting five of fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr., sophomore guard Ty Rodgers, graduate student forwards Marcus Domask and Quincy Guerrier and senior forward Coleman Hawkins.

Despite Guerrier winning the tipoff, the Buckeyes got on the board first. Shannon quickly responded with a one-handed dunk as Illinois and Ohio State battled out an efficient opening 10 minutes, with the Illini shooting 57.1% from the floor while the Buckeyes shot 60% to start the game.

A tight back-and-forth saw Ohio State manage to stay on top until the 12:43 mark, as redshirt junior Dain Dainja claimed Illinois’ first lead of the night (16-15) from inside the paint.

Redshirt Junior Dain Dainja celebrates after executing a dunk against Minnesota on Feb. 28. (Angel Saldivar)

With 8:16 remaining, Shannon achieved a personal milestone after scoring an and-one to surpass 2,000 collegiate career points. The Chicago native completed the three-point play to boost the Illini to a six-point advantage; however, the momentum didn’t last.

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The final five minutes of the half saw the tide shift dramatically. A 9-0 scoring run from the Buckeyes brought them back in front with 4:21 to go. Junior guard Luke Goode followed up a transition slam from Shannon with a big three-point make to regain a narrow lead, and the end of an intense first half of play saw Illinois in front by a narrow 31-29 score.

The Buckeyes came out of the break on fire, wasting no time in going on an 8-2 run to dig the Illini into a four-point hole. After enduring a scoreless first period, Domask opened his scoring account with an open triple make, but as the second half unfolded, it was all Ohio State.

With 11:00 remaining, Bruce Thornton nailed a floater that sunk Illinois into a double-digit deficit as things began to look increasingly dire for the Illini.

However, Illinois showed its grit and locked in for the final 10 minutes featuring the Dainja show. With elimination on the line, the Illini looked to flip the script and kickstarted a vital 12-3 scoring run led by key buckets from both the Illini big man and Shannon. Dainja leveled the score at 59-59 with 7:41 to go, setting up a tight one-possession conclusion to the quarterfinal matchup.

The forward continued to heat up and canceled out another Buckeyes lead to once again tie things up at 71-71 with under two minutes left. Ohio State senior forward Jamison Battle responded with a massive make from beyond the arc, but free throws from Shannon and Hawkins reclaimed the advantage at a narrow 75-74 score.

Survival is the name of the game in March, and the Illini managed to hold out to claim the 77-74 win for their first postseason victory of 2023-24. Big nights from Shannon and Dainja saw the guard and forward put up 28 and 18 points respectively.

With its 24th win of the season now in the books, Illinois will be back on Saturday for a 2:30 tipoff in the Big Ten tournament semifinal against No. 3 Nebraska.



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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!
Angel Saldivar, Assistant Photo Editor
My name is Angel Saldivar and I'm nearing the end of my Journalism degree at the University of Illinois and currently serve as the Assistant Photo Editor at the Daily Illini. When I'm not out taking photos, I'm diving into filmmaking with my film club (shoutout Illini Film and Video) or playing the drums. Got questions or just want to connect? Don't hesitate to email me!
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