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Shannon, Domask lead Illinois to blowout win in Big Ten opener

The drought in Piscataway is over.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — That’s how it’s done on the road.

After a six-game home stretch to start the season, Illinois headed to Rutgers on Saturday afternoon for its Big Ten game of the season.

The Illini hadn’t won at Jersey Mike’s Arena since 2018, but that changed on Saturday. Despite surrendering a big lead in the first half, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask’s 38 combined points led a second-half charge en route to a 76-58 win.

Shannon did everything for Illinois (6-1, 1-0 Big Ten), finishing with 21 points (8-13 FG) and 10 rebounds — his first double-double of the season — along with three assists and two blocks.

While Shannon led the way, the win was a team effort for Brad Underwood’s squad. In a tough environment, Illinois took it to Rutgers (5-2, 0-1 Big Ten), outscoring them 40-26 in the paint and winning the rebound battle by an overwhelming 55-27 margin.

Domask was the only other Illini scoring in double digits, adding 15 points (6-13 FG) and 7 boards. On the other hand, the Scarlet Knights did not have a go-to scorer, as they failed to have a player in double digits. Austin Williams and Aundre Hyatt led the team with nine points apiece.

While Illinois seemingly dominated the entire game, it was truly a story of runs. The visitors began the game in complete control with a 24-8 start, but Rutgers used an 11-0 run of its own to make it a one-score game before entering half trailing 41-36.

The Illini caught fire once again in the second half, and they did so while holding the Scarlet Knights without a field goal for over six minutes. They used this defensive pressure to take a commanding 67-44 lead, one that would be too much for the home underdogs to overcome.

The only thing that held Illinois back was its turnover problems. Rutgers took advantage of 17 Illinois mistakes, but many droughts throughout the game were the story for the struggling offense.

This inconsistency resulted in 33% shooting from the field, while Illinois shot over 45% from the field and was an uncharacteristically efficient 43% from three.

With this win, Illinois starts Big Ten play in a very different direction than last season, while conference-favorite Purdue lost its opener on Friday night.

The win also marks Illinois’ second in a Big Ten road opener since 2010, giving the program some momentum as it continues the stretch away from home against the likes of Florida Atlantic, Tennessee and Missouri in the next few weeks.

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Illinois will stay on the east coast and compete in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The Illini will face the Florida Atlantic Owls, last season’s NCAA Tournament darling that returns much of its squad.

Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.