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Dainja, Epps shine in Illinois’ big win over Kansas City

Man, this team is deep.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois took care of business for the second time this season.

After a shaky start Friday night at State Farm Center, Illinois settled in and dominated Kansas City, winning 86-48. Dain Dainja, Jayden Epps, and Terrence Shannon Jr. led the way as the Illini cruised to an easy victory.

Coming off of a comfortable season-opening win over Eastern Illinois, the Illini came out sleep-walking against UMKC, starting just 1-of-18 from the field and 0-of-12 from downtown.

Following the slow start, Dainja dominated with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks at the break. Shannon and Epps picked up the slack as well, finishing the first half with 9 points a piece, giving the Illini a 16-point lead.

“Bringing the energy on defense, that’s what got me going,” Epps said. “Our defense led to offense.”

Dainja continued his tear into the second half, finishing with a team-high 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks. He’s starting to make a case for fitting his way into the starting lineup.

“This is just the start for me,” Dainja said. “I try to just bring energy to the team. I want to win.”

The Illini had great ball control with only 11 turnovers compared to UMKC’s 24. Illinois comfortably lead for over 32 minutes and only trailed for under 5.

The second half is where the Illini turned on the jets, shooting 60% from the field and 57.1% from three.


SLOPPY START: The Illini started the game with 11 points at the 10 minute mark, having an awful stretch missing 15 consecutive shots from the field.

TURNOVER TOTALS: Illinois took advantage in the points off turnovers department, outscoring Kansas City 28-8.

BENCH BULLIES: The Illini bench dominated UMKC outscoring them 43-7. Dainja was responsible for nearly half of those points with 20 alone.

EFFICIENT ENDING: After a forgettable first half performance of 35.3% from the field, Illinois turned things around in the second period shooting an impressive 60%.


Prior to tipoff, the Illini celebrated last year’s Big Ten Champion team with a ring ceremony. Trent Frazier, Kofi Cockburn, Alfonso Plummer and Da’Monte Williams were all in attendance as the team raised their new conference championship banner.

“I got into this 36 years ago for nights like tonight,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “Just a pretty damn cool evening. What a night.”


Terrence Shannon Jr. throws down another MONSTER jam to open the scoring on the night.

Dain Dainja joins the dunk party late in the first half.

A Coleman Hawkins steal leads to POSTER dunk.


  • Dain Dainja eclipsed his career high in rebounds in the first half alone with 12. He finished with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 15 boards and 5 blocks.
  • Jayden Epps had a team high +/- of 35 in 24 minutes on the floor. This is 8 points higher than Shannon’s team high of 27 in the Illini’s first game against EIU.



Illinois will host Monmouth at State Farm Center on Monday night.

Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.