CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Back in the W column.
Following an intense weekend of hoops in Las Vegas that featured two games against top-20 opponents, No. 16 Illinois returned home and took care of Lindenwood, 92-59, on Friday night at State Farm Center.
This one was high scoring early, with the Illini finding themselves in front 12-9 less than four minutes into the game before quickly pulling away and outscoring the Lions 37-16 heading into the break.
Two guys who had been rather quiet offensively in the Illini’s first five games were the catalysts on offense. Skyy Clark and RJ Melendez combined for 28 first-half points, with both setting season-highs in scoring before the second half even began.
The second half was a little more of a struggle, as Illinois shot just 48% after a red hot 65.6% first half from the floor and conceded an 11-0 run to Lindenwood that had Brad Underwood hot. Illinois (5-1) already had plenty of cushion however, and the result was never in doubt.
Terrence Shannon Jr. (1-for-3 3-point FG) didn’t quite replicate his Steph Curry-like performance from last Friday in Vegas, but he showed his usual explosion getting to the basket and to the free throw line, finishing with 16 points and adding 3 assists and 2 steals.
A much-needed confidence boost for the Illini as a tough four-game stretch awaits that includes Syracuse, No. 4 Texas, and their first two conference matchups against Maryland and Penn State.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
SKYY FINDS HIS GROOVE: Skyy Clark was aggressive all night long and turned it into the best night of his young college career. The freshman point guard had 19 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds while shooting an impressive 8-for-9 from the field.
And it looks like he may have his bounce back.
RJ’S BIG FIRST HALF: RJ Melendez played his best half of the season in the first half, scoring 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Has to be a refreshing sight for Brad Underwood after the sophomore’s early season struggles (5.8 PPG, 33.3% FG coming in).
TURNOVER CONCERNS: Brad Underwood will want to see his team play cleaner basketball going forward. The Illini turned the ball over 22 times in this game, which has been a primary concern for this brand-new group in the early going.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Check out this Sencire pass leading to an RJ THROWDOWN.
How about this nasty spin move by Dain Dainja in the post.
TWEET OF THE GAME
remember, lieb has to participate in the battle to gain EXP points— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 26, 2022
It gets tough again on Tuesday when the Syracuse Orange come to town in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.