The Illini took care of business in the way that should have against a lesser Eastern Illinois team
The Illini beat the Eastern Illinois Panthers 87-57 in an unsurprising rout. They controlled the game throughout while still trying to work out the early season kinks with a new roster.
The Good Things
The athleticism and defensive ability are close to an elite level for this team, that much is clear no matter the opponent. I’d prefer they not try to live and die with the three, but they had Hawkins making everything in sight in the first half. The ability to switch on everything defensively makes them a more dynamic team than in years past, it’s something they couldn’t do with Kofi Cockburn.
- Key Stats
- 47% from the field (30-64)
- 21 Second Chance Points
- 38 Points in the Paint
- 20 Offensive Rebounds
A lot of these stats won’t be compiled against better opponents, but they did a lot of the little things well. They looked much more aggressive in attacking the basket after shots as well as in the paint overall. It’s obviously a different group from last season, and that could end up being a better thing for the program. I think a lot of people would like to see them take fewer threes, but that is a conversation for a different day.
The Bad Things
There wasn’t a lot of bad to discuss from this game, but there are still some rough edges to their game. I expected them to have some chemistry issues and other small mistakes, but it wasn’t all that bad overall. They played a fairly clean game and Underwood had his mitts all over this style.
- Key Stats
- 15 turnovers
- 54% from the free throw line (18-33)
- RJ Melendez – 0-for-5 from three
I expected them to turn the ball over, so it’s not surprising that they had 15 turnovers. It’s actually not that bad of a number given the expectations. Free throws were a major issue for anybody not named Terrence Shannon Jr., Hawkins was 2-4, Dain Dainja was 1-4, Sencire Harris was 0-2, and Ty Rodgers was 1-6. They have to be better at the free-throw line, but that’s always been an issue under Underwood. I think Melendez will find his form, but MAN he missed a lot of open looks in this game.
Three Studs of The Game
This will be a segment in every recap of the season. These are based on simply watching the game and their sats, it’s about finding the most effective players in the game. Here are the three studs for this game, it goes from 3 to 1 (1 being the best).
Stud #3: G Sencire Harris (Illini) – 4-9 FG, 1-2 3pt, 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
- He was an all-energy player for this team, I think he and Dainja were fighting for this spot, but I was so impressed by Harris’ game. All you have to do is watch the difference between the Illini defense when he’s on the floor.
Stud #2: F Coleman Hawkins (Illini) – 8-14 FG, 5-8 3pt, 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
- We have seen this movie before, Hawkins loves playing against these lower-level D1 teams. This time it felt a bit different, he morphed into Steph Curry somehow with his three-point prowess. This was a great effort from Hawkins.
Stud #1: G Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illini) – 5-8 FG, 1-3 3pt, 24 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal
- Shannon Jr.’s athleticism was on display in his Illinois debut. He was flying around with highlight reel dunks and blocks. He was clearly the GUY on the floor for the Illini in this game, most of their offense ran through him. He’s such an important piece and an elite defender for Underwood to have.
Onto the Next One
Next up for the Illini: Friday, November 11th vs. Kansas City (8 PM CST, Big Ten Network)
Underwood’s team will face off against Kansas City in their second game of the season. It was a tough start for Roos with a 59-56 loss to Lincoln University of Missouri…not good at all. They should be able to work out more kinks in this game, but they can’t take any opponent lightly.
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