Illinois had an early trend of slow starts but shook it off against a buy game opponent before fall break. After facing early deficits of at least eight in each of its three games against low or mid-major opponents, Illinois led nearly wire-to-wire in an 88-60 win over Southern on Sunday. Terrence Shannon Jr. had a game-high 24 points while Dain Dainja added 12 points and Quincy Guerrier had 10 points and six rebounds. Freshman big Amani Hansberry had eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists off the bench.
Dainja had 10 points in the first 6:40, including the Illini’s first four made field goals. He was in double-figures for the second straight game starting in place of the injured Coleman Hawkins. Niccolo Moretti gave the Illini an offensive spark off the bench for the second-straight game. He had four points, three assists, three rebounds in the first half, including one for an Amani Hansberry layup that gave the Illini a 23-17 lead with 9:21 left in the first. Moretti left the game late in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn also left in the final minute with an injury.
Southern came into the contest 37th in the country in forced turnover rate, according to Kenpom, and were able to speed up Illinois into some miscues to stay in the game early. The Illini had 10 turnovers in the first 16 minutes and finished with 21. Shannon had a personal 12-0 run late in the first half that put Illinois up 40-24 with 2:28 left in the first and had 17 points in the first half while the Illini took an 18-point lead into the break. Illinois opened up a 34-point lead in the second half, with Luke Goode hitting three triples after the break to finish with nine points. He’s had three made 3s or more in four of the Illini’s five games this season. Next, Illinois hosts Western Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday.