CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 19th-ranked team in the land looked very legit Monday night.
In the final feel-out game they’ll play before heading to Vegas and taking on some insanely tough competition, Illinois used lights-out shooting and impressive defense to propel them past Monmouth, 103-65.
“The ball had tremendous energy tonight,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “It doesn’t have to be perfect execution when you have energy.”
Just by watching, you could tell the team had so much of that aforementioned energy in the first half especially, as the scoring barrage was led by forward Terrence Shannon Jr., who scored 21 points in the half alone on 6-of-9 shooting. But Shannon wasn’t the only Illini to reach double figures in the half, he was joined by freshman guard Jayden Epps (15 points).
Overall, it was a incredibly impressive half to watch, as the whole team shot 76.6% from the field and 60% from three. Seeing this success is what the players want to see.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going into the game against UCLA,” Shannon said. “Just got to keep moving the ball and flowing through our offense.”
Shannon’s success carried over into the second half where he was able to reach a new career high after scoring a few more buckets, getting him to 30 points.
“[Shannon] works so hard,” Underwood said. “It’s just who he is, he’s always wired.”
The second half was a different story as each team slowed down significantly. Illinois (3-0) didn’t score nearly as much as the first half, but still managed to outscore Monmouth (0-3) 40-32. It was also not nearly as efficient of a half as Illinois shot 43.8% from the field, fortunately it did not matter because of how good the first was.
Epps ended up with 21 points and forward Dain Dainja was the only other Illini who ended up in double figures (15).
“We showed improvement, and showed how we can respond for the next game.” Shannon said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
ON FIRE: The Illini started off incredibly hot, taking an 8-0 lead over the Hawks less than a minute into the game. They also started off shooting 5-5.
“I liked that a lot better than I liked the 1-18 start in our previous outing,” Underwood said. “I think you can see we spent a little time trying to clean up that side of the ball.”
MONMOUTH MISCUES: The Hawks had 17 turnovers in the first half that led to 22 Illini points, a big reason for the 30-point halftime lead. They also only shot 41.7% from the field in the first half.
29-5 RUN: Feel like this one explains itself. There was a stretch in the first half where Illinois went on a 29-5 run that for sure put an early stamp on this one.
STARTER CONCERNS?: Even though this was a blowout from the get-go, beside TSJ, the other four starters only combined for 25 of the 103 Illini points. A more balanced attack from the starters is going to be needed — especially starting this weekend.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Illini start super fast.
An electric start for @IlliniMBB. ⚡ pic.twitter.com/KeAS9LfcP4— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) November 15, 2022
Ty Rodgers throws it down off the dish from Shannon.
Something we think @IlliniMBB fans will get used to hearing: "@Ty_rodgers20 with the hammer." pic.twitter.com/6a7AvxBzz0— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) November 15, 2022
The #Illini made 2 field goals in the first 23 seconds of this game.— Noah Cowell (@cowell_noah) November 15, 2022
It took them almost 8 minutes to make 2 field goals last game against Kansas City.
Terrence Shannon Jr. has the first 20-point half by an Illini since Alfonso Plummer had 23 in first half at Michigan last season (2/27/22).#Illini | #HTTO— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 15, 2022
TWEET OF THE GAME
yeah Monmouth likely isn’t having a great time rn https://t.co/FmLhM0dhB8— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 15, 2022
Viva Las Vegas.
The Illini will play No. 8 UCLA in the Main Event on Friday night.
Game will air on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m.