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Hawkins, Shannon lead Illini past EIU on opening night

That was much better than 2017.

Evan McClintock // TCR

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — This EIU-Illinois matchup was a bit different.

Five years after Illinois was stunned in an exhibition against Eastern Illinois ahead of Brad Underwood’s first season in Champaign, the Illini tipped off its 2022-23 campaign on Monday night at State Farm Center and took down the Panthers in steady fashion, 87-57.

“1-0, always a good thing to be that,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “I thought we played really, really hard tonight.”

And if Coleman Hawkins and transfer guard Terrence Shannon Jr. consistently play like this, it’ll be a fun year.

Hawkins (5 three-pointers) and Shannon (in his Illini debut) combined for 28 of the 46 points in the first half and led the way for Illinois (1-0). Seeing this key success from two of the main veteran players will help uplift the others to want to do more in upcoming games.

“Guys like me and Terrence really do have to lead,” Hawkins said. “Obviously we need everybody to play, it can’t just be me and Terrance.”

Shannon would concur.

“[Others] look up to guys like me and Coleman on the team,” he said. “When they see us perform the way we did tonight, it just gives them more confidence.”

But even though Hawkins and Shannon were doing the most, it didn’t seem like it would be a breeze of a win at the start.

In most of the first half, Eastern Illinois (0-1) kept the score within 10 points. But, in a half that was rather even statistically, three-point percentage was the big difference — as Illinois shot 46.7% and EIU 20%.

Hawkins being the big reason for that first half three-point success.

“He’s a terrific shooter,” Underwood said.

After the break though, things changed a bit.

The Illini were much more dominant in all facets: out-rebounding the Panthers, playing very aggressive defense, and shooting more efficient shots was what ended up extending a 15-point halftime lead to a 30-point win.

But, even though it was a much more balanced attack in the second half, Hawkins and Shannon brought the offense. Late in the half, the duo alone was outscoring EIU 47-44. Hawkins (23), Shannon (24) and transfer forward Dain Dainja (17) were the only Illini who finished with double-digit points.

“I’m going to wake up every day knowing [Hawkins] is one of the best players in this league,” Underwood said. “He’ll impact winning in a lot of different ways, not just points.”


COL3MAN HAWKINS: The Illinois “center” went 5-for-6 from behind the arc in the first half, contributing big time to the 15-point lead at halftime.

FREE THROW WOES: The Illini went 9-of-16 from the free throw line in the first half. Might not have mattered a whole lot tonight, but that could hurt you against better opponents.

ON-AND-OFF: Illinois was very efficient from behind the arc in the first half, but not so much in the second half. Shooting only 20% in the second half resembled the Illini of last March.

R.J. STRUGGLES: The sophomore forward only had one singular point in Monday’s game (a free throw). He went 0-for-5 from the field, all of which were from behind the arc.


Terrence Shannon Jr. throws down a MONSTER jam.

And then he did THIS on the other end.


  • Coleman Hawkins’ career-high in points coming into the game was 18. He got to that amount alone in the first half and set his new career-high at 23.
  • The Illini had 6 blocks in the first half and 9 total. They averaged 3 per game last season.


We’re also just going to store this GIF away.


Illinois will host Kansas City at State Farm Center on Friday night.

Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.