Illinois struggled with slow starts early on, but managed to break the trend against a tough opponent before fall break. Despite facing early deficits of at least eight points in all three games against low or mid-major opponents, the Illini led almost 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 came off the bench to have eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
Dainja was instrumental in Illinois’ early success, scoring ten points in the first 6:40 of play and hitting the Illini’s first four made field goals. He was double-digits for the second straight game while filling in for the injured Coleman Hawkins. Niccolo Moretti also gave Illinois an offensive spark off the bench for the second straight game, contributing four points, three assists, and three rebounds in the first half. Unfortunately, Moretti suffered an ankle injury late in the first half and did not return. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn also left with an injury in the final minute of play.
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 within striking distance early on. The Illini finished with 21 turnovers after having ten turnovers in just the first 16 minutes of play. Terrence Shannon Jr.’s personal 12-point run put Illinois up by 40 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, leaving Southern struggling to keep up.
Illinois took control of