Shannon scores 24 as Illinois beats Eastern Illinois 87-57
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 24 points and Coleman Hawkins had a career-high 23 points and 12 rebounds as No. 23 Illinois cruised to an 87-57 win over Eastern Illinois on Monday night.
Dain Dainja added 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Illini, who outrebounded the Panthers 53-30 and scored 21 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds.
Kinyon Hodges scored 14 points and Yaakema Rose added 10 for Eastern Illinois.
Shannon Jr. set the tone early in his Illinois debut with an athletic, one-handed slam in transition to put his team up 11-6 early. The Texas Tech transfer took off somewhere between the free throw line and the ‘I’ in the Big Ten logo.
Hawkins quickly answered questions about who might replace the production of departed sharpshooters Jacob Grandison and Trent Frazier. He shot 5 for 6 on 3-pointers in the first half to help Illinois spring out to a 34-20 lead by the 5:17 mark of the first half.
“I shoot a lot of shots in practice just like (those 3s),” Hawkins said after his second career double-double. “I know freshman year and sophomore year, people would judge me off my 3-point shooting. I wasn’t confident at all back then, the ball felt a lot different than what it does right now.”
Illinois coach Brad Underwood joked with reporters that his longstanding faith in Hawkins’ long-distance shooting prowess “proved you all wrong.”
“He’s that stretch five man that can do just that, cause some stress, beat you off the bounce,” Underwood said. “He was tremendous early.”
The Panthers struggled through a 1-for-12 shooting stretch midway through the second half.
“Their physicality, pressure just had us sped up,” second-year Panthers coach Marty Simmons said. “I thought we did some decent things at times, but we could really never get into what we wanted to do.”
Despite the lopsided score, Underwood identified some shortcomings his team needs to work on — 15 turnovers and 18-for-33 shooting on free throws.
“I thought we played a little bit sped up,” Underwood said. “And that’s hard to say when you want to play fast. You’ve got to understand the difference between playing fast and execution.”
Shannon’s layup with 7:18 left capped a 19-3 run to give Illinois a 30-point lead.
A large group of family and friends came to see the Chicago product’s home state debut.
“We’ve got a great fan base here, it was very welcoming,” Shannon said. “Just good to see my family in the crowd every day, every game that we have here.”
Hawkins and Shannon showed they could amount to an impressive 1-2 punch. The pair combined for more than half of Illinois’ scoring and more than a third of its rebounds.
As Hawkins spoke of his increased confidence shooting the 3, Shannon interjected, “He don’t have a choice.”
“When (Hawkins) is shooting like that, I feel like it’s just better for us,” Shannon said. “It just opens the floor up for everybody else. If he doesn’t got it there, he’s going to shot fake, make the right play and either score or dish it out.”
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers look like a team that will surpass its pitiful 5-26 record from last year. Hodges didn’t look hesitant against a talented group of opposing guards and the Panthers created some open looks in the half-court offense.
Illinois: Shannon looks like a primary scorer in the Big Ten and freshmen Clark, Rodgers, Epps and Harris all had flashes of promise in their NCAA debuts.
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers face another in-state foe when they host Illinois State on Thursday.
Illinois: Hosts Kansas City on Friday night.
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