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Player of the game
Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr.
Shannon made his intentions clear before Sunday’s charity exhibition game. Beating Hunter Dickinson again (and Kansas, of course) was the plan. Then he made it happen. The veteran Illinois guard put up 28 points — scoring at all three levels — as he showed off an efficient three-point stroke and his typical freight train-esque ability to attack the basket. Shannon finished the game shooting 8 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 9 three-pointers, and added three rebounds and two assists for good measure.
Kevin McCullar Jr. basically matched Shannon before a collision diving for a loose ball sidelined the Jayhawks’ guard late in the game. Any Texas Tech fan who stumbled across the BTN broadcast was probably beside themselves watching Shannon go for 28 points and McCullar 25 points and eight rebounds in a top 25 showdown. The difference was in everybody else. Illinois got more from Marcus Domask and Co. than Kansas did from its guards.
The Jayhawks’ bigs were productive. Hunter Dickinson finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and KJ Adams Jr. put up 14 points, four rebounds and three assists. But Illinois made Dickinson work for those points, which he needed 20 shots to get. Coleman Hawkins frustrated the All-American center into miss after miss around the basket and ended the game with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
While Brad Underwood got all 12 scholarship players on the court in the first half, the rotation shrank in the final 20 minutes. It was basically just Justin Harmon off the bench in the second half, and that’s where the fifth-year Illinois guard shined with four points and five rebounds (of his six and six total) in his 12 second-half minutes. Kansas has less depth, and it showed with Nicolas Timberlake the only real contributor among the Jayhawks’ reserves.
The outlook for the 2023-24 Illinois basketball season will remain bright if Shannon and Hawkins play the rest of the year like they did Sunday against Kansas. Shannon played like an All-American. Hawkins showed how much of a two-way threat he can be. Hit that level against everybody else, and the Illini will contend both in the Big Ten and nationally as long as the supporting cast also remains solid. Doing it consistently is the key.