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. 23 Illinois men’s basketball’s come from behind win over Valparaiso

Jacoby Banks-Hull
Sophomore guard Ty Rodgers drives up the court against Southern on Sunday.

Coming off a seven-point loss to No. 4 Marquette, No. 23 Illinois men’s basketball was back at home to host Valparaiso. The Beacons put up a good fight and led for significant stretches in both halves but it was ultimately the Illini who ended up on top. Fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. earned a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds in the 87-64 victory.

Slow starts continue to bite the Illini

The three wins that Illinois has earned in the young 2023-24 season have been far from pretty. This is largely due to poor starts from the Illini allowing them to fall behind in games that they should be running away with. Whether it be Eastern Illinois controlling the first 12 minutes or Valparaiso taking a seven-point lead into halftime, Illinois has put itself in bad positions at the start of games. 

Of course, in these three cases, the Illini rallied to win in convincing fashion, and their average margin of victory is 20.6 points. However, if Illinois continues to leave the door open for its opponents, it will come back to bite them eventually. On the bright side, the Illini had their best start of the season in their biggest game of the season (Marquette), so there is a chance that slow starts will not be an issue in important games. 

Illinois’ starting five players are indicated with *.

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* Terrence Shannon Jr. (A+)

While early foul trouble kept Shannon off the floor for stretches in the first half, he was still efficient during his time on it. However, the spotlight will rightfully shine on his second half showing. The Chicago native came out of the break with an electric stride and contributed, alongside Luke Goode, to bringing life back into what was a dreadful Illinois team. 

Shannon set the pace right away coming out of the break, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second period and using his energy to revive the Illini not only on the court, but in the stands of the State Farm Center as well.

* Marcus Domask (C-)

Friday night saw a sloppy performance from Domask after what was a strong showing against No. 4 Marquette last Tuesday. While the graduate student forward was helpful on the boards with grabbing six rebounds, he also shot 2-9 from the field and committed a team-high three turnovers. It was in the latter category that drew the most concern, with Domask simply not appearing focused during Illini possessions. Particularly in the first half, the forward became a liability, getting stripped of the ball easily and passing it out to no one.

* Dain Dainja (A)

It’s unclear when the team knew that senior forward Coleman Hawkins would be unavailable, but Dainja filled in flawlessly. After getting three minutes against Marquette just three days prior, he put in 16 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. Even more impressive, he did so while making eight of his 10 shots and was consistently creating enough separation to get a good shot off. The only negative part of his performance was an 0-6 mark at the free throw line but in an eventual 23-point victory, that is hardly major. 

* Ty Rodgers (A)

Rodgers was once again hounding on defense and made the most of every opportunity on the offensive end. As far as counting stats are concerned, Rodgers totaled 10 points while making four of six shots and having a successful trip to the free throw line. Going 2-2 from the line is a gem in and of itself for an Illinois team that was 12-24 as a whole, but adding an efficient night from the field is even more beneficial. He was the only person to total more than one steal and was responsible for two of the team’s four. 

* Quincy Guerrier (C-)

In short, Friday was just not Guerrier’s night. After taking three and making zero shots against Marquette, Guerrier was certainly more aggressive against Valparaiso but continued to struggle to get his shots down. He made just one of his seven shots including an 0-5 mark from distance. He was the starter with the least amount of playtime as a result of this and spent just 15 minutes on the floor.

Luke Goode (A)

Goode followed up the best game of his career with an equally productive night on the offensive end. He ended up tying the 13-point mark he set on Tuesday and even played 26 minutes, which was more than three starters. The four threes he knocked down from distance was nearly half of Illinois’ total production in that area. To top it all off, he was extremely active on the glass and came down with seven total rebounds, two of which came on the offensive end. 

Justin Harmon (A-)

Harmon was definitely a bright spot for Illinois and contributed to the rejuvenation of the team. The guard looked arguably the sharpest he has in an Illini uniform so far and delighted the crowd with a nice side step to three-point make. In addition to contributing seven points off the bench, Harmon also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in a game where the Illini desperately needed them to turn things around.

Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (C)

It was a quiet night for Gibbs-Lawhorn, who appeared to be playing through some sort of head injury and had gauze wrapped around his head. He took five shots during his 15 minutes and made just one of them. His singular assist was pretty key, as it led to a Shannon three pointer that cut into an early 13-4 deficit. 

Amani Hansberry (B-)

Illinois needed a strong physical presence in the paint, and that job was dominated by Dainja. However, Hansberry’s 15 minutes on the floor saw him play a similar role just to less impactful effect. The freshman forward wasn’t able to do much in the scoring department, shooting 1-4 from the field, but still provided the Illini with aid in the rebounding department, snagging five on the night.

Niccolo Moretti (B)

Despite playing the least amount of minutes by an Illini player, it was a career night for Moretti. Four of his career-high six points came in the final 90 seconds of the game when the game was effectively over, but a milestone is a milestone. He was also very solid as a secondary to tertiary playmaker and racked up two assists to zero turnovers. 

Coleman Hawkins (DNP)

Hawkins missed out on Friday night’s outing due to an originally unspecified cause. After the game, it was revealed that it is a form of tendonitis and is a reaggravating issue that leads to swelling and is currently something that will be evaluated day-to-day.


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About the Contributors
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 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!
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