clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Harmon, Dainja step up in Illinois’ first game without Shannon

The No. 11 Illini put up triple-digits in a blowout win over FDU.

TCR // Craig Pessman

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When the adversity around the program was at an all-time high, every single Illini stepped up.

After leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. was suspended indefinitely following his arrest, short-handed Illinois played its first game in a week in front of a sold-out crowd at State Farm Center.

This game meant much more than anyone could’ve imagined just a few days ago. With all the adversity surrounding head coach Brad Underwood’s guys, they responded emphatically on Friday night.

Without their best scorer and ball handler, the Illini struggled offensively in the first half. However, emergences from Dain Dainja and Justin Harmon (37 combined points) put Illinois up big.

From there, balanced play, dominance on the glass and efficient shooting carried Illinois past Fairleigh Dickinson, 104-71.

“This is the most connected group of players that I’ve coached,” Underwood said. “That showed tonight.”

As expected, Shannon’s absence was going to impact every facet of Illinois’ (10-2, 1-0 Big Ten) game. While it led to some initial growing pains in the offense’s flow, it also gave others a chance to see increased roles.

Harmon took advantage of the opportunity late in the first half, as an offensive explosion — 14 points in a two-minute span — and paint dominance from Dainja (15 first-half points) put Illinois up 20 heading into the locker room.

The two stepped up, but they were only a small part of the six players on the team in double figures on Friday.

“We have really, really good players,” Underwood said.

As the team’s point guard, Ty Rodgers posted a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds, while he also dished out five assists.

“We’ve started to see Ty Rodgers really blossom,” Underwood said. “Find me another point guard that gets 15 rebounds. Find me another guy that guards the other team’s best player.”

Quincy Guerrier built off his season-high 28 points against Missouri with a double-double as well, putting up 14 points and grabbing 11 boards.

While Marcus Domask didn’t shoot the ball well, he was one of the six in double digits and recorded a season-high 11 assists on the night. His total carried over to 21 team assists on 36 made field goals.

Coleman Hawkins also accomplished a season-high of his own, making five shots from behind the arc.

“It’s a blessing that I get to have an old team, and a team that is very dedicated and committed to each other and the process,” Underwood said. “All those guys stepped up and responded.”

The FDU Knights (6-8) pulled off an all-time great upset against No. 1 seed Purdue in March, and through 14 minutes in Champaign, it looked like they could have enough magic to pull off another one.

The Knights returned over 50% of their scoring and three of their five starters from the Cinderella team, and they were only trailing by six late in the first half before the big run by Harmon put the game quickly out of reach.

Illinois dominated every part of Friday night’s game, shooting 52% from the field and 41% from three. It also doubled up FDU in rebounds (54-27) and overwhelmed the Knights with 49 bench points.

Terrence Shannon or not, these Illini have crashed the glass and shared the rock at will all season long. In front of the sold-out State Farm Center, they played together, and they did it in the midst of what could be the most shocking news this program has seen in a long time.

“[Shannon] was at the top of every opponent’s scouting report,” Underwood said. “We’ll figure it out because we’ve got really good players and talented guys.”

STAT STUFFERS

Illinois

  • Dain Dainja: 19 points (9-10 FG), 6 rebounds
  • Justin Harmon: 18 points (6-10 FG, 4-7 3PT)
  • Ty Rodgers: 10 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Quincy Guerrier: 14 points (5-9 FG), 11 rebounds
  • Coleman Hawkins: 18 points (5-8 3PT)
  • Marcus Domask: 11 points (2-7 FG, 1-6 3PT), 11 assists, 4 rebounds

FDU

  • Ansley Almonor: 20 points (7-16 FG, 4-9 3PT)
  • DeVante Jamison: 11 points (4-10 FG, 3-4 3PT), 5 assists
  • Sean Moore: 10 points (4-11 FG, 2-5 3PT), 7 rebounds

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

He felt DAINJA-rous tonight.

Check out the two-minute burst.

Quincy throwing it down with authority.

SOUND SMART

And he did it all in less than a two-minute span.

High-level play from these guys is big moving forward.

They finished with 26 combined rebounds while FDU had 27 (ugh so close).

TWEET OF THE GAME

UP NEXT

Illinois’ non-conference play is over. Underwood and his guys will head straight into the thick of Big Ten play to open 2024, and it starts at home against Northwestern on Tuesday.

Game time is set for 8 p.m. on BTN.