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

The dance continues: No. 3 Illinois men’s basketball advances to Elite 8

James Hoeck
#0 Fifth-year senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. plays against Nebraska at the State Farm Center on Feb. 4.

Four days after earning its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2005, No. 3 Illinois men’s basketball was opposite No. 2 Iowa State. Both squads had dominant outings in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament despite excelling in very different areas of the floor. Illinois entered with one of the most productive offenses, while Iowa State was known for its elite defense. Ultimately, the Illini’s offense outlasted the Cyclones and advanced to the Elite Eight with a 72-69 win.

Head coach Brad Underwood stuck with his most frequent starting five on Thursday night. Graduate student forwards Quincy Guerrier and Marcus Domask were next to fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr., senior forward Coleman Hawkins and sophomore guard Ty Rodgers.

Illinois came down with the tipoff and Iowa State’s staunch defense immediately forced a turnover. However, the Illini returned the favor on the opposite end and got on the board thanks to a three-pointer from Shannon.

Executing on both ends continued to pay off for Illinois, as Shannon intercepting an errant pass from Iowa State set up a transition slam for Hawkins. Through four minutes, the Illini had built up a steep 11-2 advantage. 

Back-to-back turnovers by Illinois allowed Iowa State to gain some ground but its work was short-lived. Within minutes, Rodgers capped off a game-high 10-point lead with a powerful two-handed dunk (16-6).

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The Cyclones’ solution came from senior guard Curtis Jones, who exploded off the bench for 11 of their first 12 points to move within four points of the Illini. However, shots continued to fall for Illinois and it answered with a 10-1 run to double Iowa State in the final six minutes of the half (26-13). 

Despite seeing so much success on the offensive end, Illinois had a lot of trouble at the free-throw line in the first half. This came to a head after the Illini missed three straight free throws on a single possession to move to 3-10 overall.

Fortunately, Hawkins curbed the trend in the closing seconds of the half and knocked down two free throws to take a 36-26 lead into the break. Shannon was a blur on offense in the first half, grabbing two steals on the defensive end while notching nine more points than any other Illini (16). 

The second half started in favor of Iowa State, sinking three straight baskets out of the gates while Illinois was held scoreless. 

Illinois turned to Shannon when they needed a basket the most, and he delivered from the midrange. Hawkins built on Shannon’s make with a step-back three-pointer late in the shot clock before getting a steal and slam in transition.

Junior guard Luke Goode gave Illinois its first bench points of the game with 14:17 remaining in the second half. Shannon finding Goode in the left corner was quickly followed up by redshirt junior forward Dain Dainja reeling in an offensive rebound and becoming Illinois’ second bench scorer (50-42).

Two fouls in the first nine minutes of the second half put Shannon at four total fouls on the evening and forced Underwood to take him out of the game. Iowa State immediately capitalized on Shannon’s absence and scored six unanswered points in one minute (51-49). The Cyclones even had an opportunity to tie the game after Illinois gave up another turnover but missed a wide-open layup. 

The Illini stepped up on defense from there but only managed to total two points during a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought by the Cyclones. 

Hectic possessions piled up on both ends, with an out-of-structure play allowing Domask to draw an and-one basket with a defender on his back. 

Shannon checked into the game for the final five minutes of play and wasted no time getting back to where he left off. The Chicago native knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing before Goode made it back-to-back on the next possession (62-56).

Goode continued to come up big for the Illini in the closing minutes and cleaned up a missed shot with an offensive rebound and two free throws (66-60). Despite individual success at the free-throw line from Domask (3-3) and Goode (2-2), the Illini continued to leave the door open for the Cyclones with costly misses (12-25).

However, Iowa State failed to capitalize on those opportunities after a streaking Shannon came up with a steal and slam to put Illinois up 70-64 with 17 seconds remaining. The Illini held onto their lead in the final seconds and took a 72-69 win.

No. 3 Illinois men’s basketball will be fighting for a trip to the Final Four against No. 1 UCONN on Saturday.



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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 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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