After facing early deficits of at least eight in each of its three games against low or mid-major opponents, Illinois shook off that trend with a dominant win over Southern on Sunday. In an 88-60 victory, the Illini led nearly wire-to-wire, thanks to a strong second half performance. 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 was instrumental in Illinois’ early success, scoring 10 points in the first 6:40 and providing a much-needed offensive spark for the Illini. He was in double figures for the second straight game starting in place of the injured Coleman Hawkins. Niccolo Moretti also gave Illinois an offensive boost off the bench for the second-straight game, having four points, three assists, and three rebounds in the first half alone. However, both Moretti and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn left the game late with injuries.
Southern came into the contest ranked 37th in the country in forced turnover rate according to Kenpom, but were unable to capitalize on any miscues by Illinois early on. The Illini had just 10 turnovers in the first 16 minutes and finished with only 21 for the entire game. Shannon had a personal 12-0 run late in the first half that put Illinois up 40-24 with only two minutes remaining before halftime.
Illinois continued their dominance in the second half, opening up a commanding 34-point lead by halftime thanks to Luke Goode hitting three triples after coming back from break. Goode has made at least three threes in four of Illinois’ five games this season. Next up for Illinois is a matchup against Western Illinois at home on Friday night at 8 p.m