The Illinois Fighting Illini had a slow start to their season, losing their first three games against low or mid-major opponents by at least eight points. However, they shook off that trend with a dominant win over Southern on Sunday. Terrence Shannon Jr. led the way with 24 points, while Dain Dainja and Quincy Guerrier added 12 and 10 points respectively. Freshman big Amani Hansberry also contributed with eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists off the bench.
Dainja was instrumental in the early stages of the game, scoring 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 also gave the Illini an offensive spark off the bench for the second-straight game, scoring four points, three assists, and three rebounds in the first half before leaving late with an ankle injury. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn also left in the final minute with an injury.
Southern came into the contest ranked 37th in forced turnover rate according to Kenpom and were able to speed up Illinois into some miscues to stay in the game early on. The Illini had 10 turnovers in just 16 minutes and finished with 21 on Sunday. Shannon had a personal 12-0 run late in the first half that put Illinois up 40-24 with just over two minutes remaining and scored 17 points in total during that period.
The Illini opened up a commanding lead of 34 points in the second half after Luke Goode hit three triples following halftime to finish with nine points. He has had three made threes or more in four out of five games this season so far. Next up for Illinois is a matchup against Western Illinois at home on Friday at 8 pm ET. Follow Anderson Kimball on Twitter @AndyKimball58