CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, Dain Dainja added 12 points and Quincy Guerrier had 10 to lead No. 23 Illinois to an 88-60 rout of Southern on Sunday night.
A 17-point run in the final five minutes of the first half, including 11 in a row by Shannon, gave Illinois a 45-27 lead at the break. The Illini (4-1) weren’t threated by the Jaguars in the second half, extending their lead to as many as 34 points.
“I didn’t know I had 11 in a row,” Shannon said. “I was just doing what Coach (Brad) Underwood asks me to do. Run the court and rebound.”
Dainja scored Illinois’ first eight points, all inside.
“I told Dain before the game to ‘Go get dirty,” Shannon said. “He got us off to a great start.”
Nine of the 10 players who dressed for Southern (1-4) scored. Tai’Reon Joseph led the way with 16 points, and Jordan Mitchell added 13.
Illinois, which came into the game ranked 15th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (34%), held Southern to 37% from the field, including 5 of 24 from long distance.
The Illini were without starting power forward Coleman Hawkins for the second straight game. He has a sore knee. Backup point guard Niccolo Moretti suffered a foot injury late in the first half and didn’t return.
Moretti had four points, three assists and three rebounds in 13 minutes before leaving the game.
“Nico kills us in practice,” Shannon said. “He’s been a point guard all his life. I’m glad he was able to showcase his talent over the last two games. I feel bad that he got hurt when he stepped on my foot.”
Underwood said he didn’t know the extent of Moretti’s injury, but he’d like to have him back on the floor sooner than later.
“Nico is unique. He plays with speed,” Underwood said. “There’s a lot of positivity when he’s on the court. Our pace picks up because everyone knows if they run the floor, Nico will get the ball to them.”
Illinois was playing its third game in six days — the only time during the regular season when the team had just one day between games.
The Illini beat Valparaiso 87-64 on Friday, outscoring the Beacons 49-19 in the second half after trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half.
Even though both teams played Friday, Southern looked gassed before the end of the first half. The Jaguars were worn down by the Illini’s deep roster in the first 20 minutes and had no answer for Shannon’s drives to the hoop.
Dainja missed his first 10 free throws this season. He ended the drought when he made the second of a two-shot foul with 8:34 left in the first half. He finished 2 for 4 at the line.
FIRST WIN AT ILLINOIS
This was the second meeting between Illinois and Southern. The Illini won the first game 102-55 on Nov. 10, 2017, in Champaign. It was a season opener and Underwood’s first game as Illinois coach.
Southern: The Jaguars will play at Valparaiso on Saturday.
Illinois: The Illini will end a season-opening six-game homestand by hosting Western Illinois on Friday.