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

Domask, Hawkins lead No. 9 Illinois men’s basketball to blowout victory over Northwestern

Olivia McAfoos
Graduate student Marcus Domask drills a jump shot in the second half against Northwestern on Tuesday.

One day after moving into the Associated Press top 10, No. 9 Illinois men’s basketball was back at home to kick off the new year. Ninth is the program’s highest ranking since ending the 2020-21 season at No. 2 and a 96-66 victory over Northwestern only strengthened Illinois’ resume. A team-high 32 points from graduate student Marcus Domask and strong defense from senior forward Coleman Hawkins headlined Illinois’ second Big Ten win of the season.

Tuesday night was Illinois’ second game since the suspension of fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. was announced, and the starting five remained consistent. Junior guard Luke Goode filled in next to graduate student forward Quincy Guerrier, Domask, Hawkins and sophomore guard Ty Rodgers.

Despite tipping at 8 p.m. on the second day of the new year, the Champaign-Urbana faithful still lined the State Farm Center to cheer on the Illini. As 15,118 sets of eyes aimed at center court, Northwestern came down with the tipoff. 

The Illini stood strong on their first defensive stand and forced a turnover. On the other end, Hawkins ended up punishing the Wildcats’ zone defense with a make from deep to get the Illini offense started. A knifing drive from Rodgers coupled with Domask sinking a baseline jumper totaled seven points for Illinois before Northwestern got on the board. 

A deep three for the Wildcats threatened the Illiniʼs early lead, but Goode quickly answered with one of his own (12-7). Goode was primed to continue piling it on from distance when he ended up wide open in transition, but it was ultimately an offensive rebound and tough finish by Hawkins that got the crowd on its feet heading into a media timeout. 

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Hawkins sank his free throw after the break and Illinois continued to build its lead through high intensity play. Two trips to the line and a put back by redshirt junior forward Dain Dainja gave the Illini a 10-point advantage. Dainja even picked up an assist in transition after some back-and-forth action with graduate student guard Justin Harmon (24-14).

Even when the Illini came up empty two times on a single possession, Goode still had the crowd on its feet thanks to a diving effort to secure an offensive rebound. This type of effort led to Illinois holding a healthy double-digit lead for much of the first half.

A four-minute scoring drought for the Wildcats ended up blowing the game open completely. After Northwestern earned its 21st point of the game at the free throw line, Illinois rattled off 12 straight points that were headlined by an and-one finish by Goode and a transition slam from Guerrier (39-21).

The Wildcats managed to rally a bit after breaking the drought, but Domask stepped up to the task offensively. He continued to nail difficult shots in the midrange and even punished a Northwestern gamble with a corner three. Through 20 minutes, Domask had a game-high 15 points while missing just three shots. In tandem with a two block, one steal defensive half from Hawkins, Illinois led 46-29 at the break.

Illinois picked up right where it left off in the second half and Rodgers earned the first basket in impressive fashion; a long hook shot over a double team. Domask sank yet another midrange jumper and a put back layup pushed Guerrier to double-digits while Illinois’ lead blossomed to a game-high 21 points (52-31).

As the minutes ticked by, Illinois continued to incrementally increase its lead to the point where an emphatic slam from Hawkins made him the fourth Illini in double figures. A foul on the floor and technical foul after the play gave Domask four straight free throws. After he sank all four, the Illini led 73-42.

With a crowd eager to see how high the lead could grow cheering ever louder, the Illini continued to battle. Even on completely broken possessions where Northwestern appeared to do everything right, Illinois could not be stopped. A late-clock step back three from Guerrier temporarily moved him to Illinois’ second highest scorer (14), but Harmon quickly took that position on his third three of the night.

Illinois ultimately took home a 96-66 victory, moving to 11-2 on the season and 2-0 against Big Ten opponents. Domask led the way offensively with an incredibly efficient 32 point performance, but also managed to stuff the stat sheet with five rebounds, six assists and a block. Hawkins provided critical defense all night long while also notching 13 points and Guerrier was the lone Illini with a double-double (14p/10r). Harmon earned a season-high 20 points, breaking an 18-point mark he set last time out against Fairleigh Dickinson.

“He’s (Harmon) simplified, he’s not trying to do too much,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “At times, you can try so hard to be a really good player and sometimes itʼs just settling into what the offense gives you, what we need you to do, run really hard, guard your tail off. The ball instinctively finds him a lot. It’s been that simple, but it just doesn’t happen like that. It takes time.”

No. 9 Illinois men’s basketball will face its biggest challenge of the season this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at No. 1 Purdue. 



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About the Contributor
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.
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