Illinois shook off its early trend of slow starts with a dominant win over Southern on Sunday. After facing deficits of at least eight points in their first three games against low or mid-major opponents, the Illini led nearly wire-to-wire in an 88-60 victory.
Terrence Shannon Jr. had a game-high 24 points while Dain Dainja added 12 and Quincy Guerrier had 10 points and six rebounds. Freshman big Amani Hansberry made a significant contribution off the bench, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Dainja set the tone for the Illini’s offense, scoring 10 points in the first 6:40, including their first four made field goals. He was in double figures for the second straight game after replacing the injured Coleman Hawkins. Niccolo Moretti also provided a spark off the bench for the second consecutive game, scoring four points, dishing out three assists and pulling down three rebounds before leaving late in the first half with an ankle injury. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn exited in the final minute with an injury as well.
Southern tried to keep up with Illinois by forcing turnovers, finishing with 37th in forced turnover rate according to Kenpom. The Illini struggled with miscues early but finished with 21 turnovers overall. Shannon had a standout performance, scoring 17 points in the first half while putting together a personal 12-0 run that gave Illinois a commanding lead of 40-24 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.
Illinois opened up a huge lead in the second half, taking advantage of Southern’s mistakes and Luke Goode’s hot shooting from beyond