Illinois had a history of starting slow, but they shook that off against a tough opponent before the fall break. In their first three games against low or mid-major opponents, the Illini fell behind by at least eight points in each game. However, on Sunday, they led Southern nearly wire-to-wire in an 88-60 win.
Terrence Shannon Jr. led the way with a game-high 24 points, while Dain Dainja added 12 points and Quincy Guerrier had 10 points and six rebounds. Freshman big Amani Hansberry had eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists off the bench.
Dainja was instrumental in Illinois’ early success, scoring ten points in the first 6:40 and making four of their first field goals. He has been filling in for the injured Coleman Hawkins and has been double figures for two straight games. Niccolo Moretti also gave the Illini an offensive spark off the bench for the second straight game, scoring four points, three assists, and three rebounds in the first half before leaving with an ankle injury late in the first half. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn also left with an injury in the final minute of play.
Southern came into the game ranked 37th in forced turnover rate according to Kenpom and were able to speed up Illinois into some miscues to stay competitive early on. The Illini had ten turnovers in just 16 minutes and finished with 21 overall. However, Shannon went on a personal 12-0 run late in the first half that put Illinois up 40-24 with just over two minutes remaining before halftime and finished with 17 points