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Illinois’ stars struggle in loss to physical No. 17 Tennessee

Shannon and Domask didn’t shine on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — CBS billed Saturday’s game as “The Start Of The Road To The Final Four.”

It didn’t disappoint.

Coming off the biggest win of its season against FAU, Illinois headed to Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday to take on No. 17 Tennessee — Illinois’ second top-20 matchup in five days.

Just like on Tuesday, it looked like another shootout was in the books early, but increased defensive intensity by both teams made Saturday’s matchup a dogfight.

In the end, it was the Volunteers who pulled away. Their unselfish play (21 assists) and physicality were too much for the Illini, as they handed them an 86-79 loss.

Unlike Tuesday, the Illinois (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) stars did not shine when the lights were brightest. Tennessee’s defensive physicality limited Terrence Shannon (22 points) and Marcus Domask (6 points) to a horrid 7-for-27 shooting — 1-for-11 from three-point range.

On the other hand, the Tennessee (6-3) leaders delivered. Dalton Knecht, the highly-touted Northern Colorado transfer, led the home team with 21 points. Josiah Jordan-James was everywhere for the Volunteers, adding 11 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out six assists.

While Shannon and Domask’s shooting performances were polar opposites from Tuesday, they were just a symptom of the larger offensive problems for Illinois.

Quincy Guerrier had a season-high 22 points as well and Coleman Hawkins added 12, but they were a combined 6-for-18 from three. The team in total shot just above 35% from the field and 25% from three.

Despite coming into the second half with a lead, the problems that plagued the Illini in the first half continued. They only recorded 9 assists while getting outscored in the paint 38-24 and out-rebounded 43-34.

Despite these problems throughout the offense, free throw shooting (24-for-28) kept the Illini in the game.

However, Tennessee’s efficient 52% from the field in the final 20 minutes made Illinois play catch-up the entire half. In the end, Brad Underwood’s squad wasn’t able to make the plays needed to come out of Knoxville with a win.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

  • RUNS: Illinois had a four-point lead in the second half, but a 10-0 run — eight of them from Knecht — put Tennessee up for good.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

BLOCKED BY JAMES- uhh I mean TSJ!!

The stats really tell the story.

The last lead the Illini had.

SOUND SMART

TWEET OF THE GAME

UP NEXT

A much-needed break for Illinois just in time for finals.

The Illini will be back at State Farm Center taking on Colgate next Sunday, Dec. 17.

Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. on BTN.