MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Illini runs past Jaguars

Nov. 21—CHAMPAIGN — Illinois men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood helped produce a video for Championship Productions about offensive basketball.

In this video, Underwood teaches coaches and teams how to utilize the spread offense and score in less than seven seconds.

That offensive philosophy was missing when the Fighting Illini lost the Marquette Golden Eagles 71-64 last Tuesday at the State Farm Center. Illinois managed only 0.941 points per possession.

Since that contest, Underwood has been stressing to his team the need for them to run as much as possible.

That offensive philosophy paid off this weekend when Illinois beat Valparaiso 87-64 on Friday night and Southern University 88-60 on Sunday evening.

“Coach Brad emphasized running,” said Illinois senior Terrence Shannon, who had 22 points against Valparaiso and 24 against Southern. “We didn’t really run against Marquette and he got on me really hard about it. We’ve tried to do our best to respond and fix what we needed to fix.”

In their wins over the weekend, the Illini (4-1) have averaged 1.101 points per possession against the Beacons and 1.158 against the Jaguars.

“That’s all about us. That’s all about trying to find easy baskets and trying to run,” he said. “Kind of common sense, the faster you get the ball up the court, you don’t have to shoot it, but it gives you more time to run offense and more time to execute.

“Even if we don’t have it right away, we want to sprint the ball up the court. We don’t want to let the defense get set and have to run an offensive set every trip…we want to play to that style and that’s our advantage. We have guys that can run and we have guys that can make shots.”

Shannon is a key piece in that puzzle for Underwood and the Illini.

He has the ability to play very fast and get downhill quickly for easy layups and dunks.

In Sunday’s win over Southern, Shannon scored 11 straight points in the first half as Illinois built a 40-24 lead.

“I don’t even remember 11 straight points,” Shannon said. “I was just doing what coach Brad tells me to do.

“He tells all of us to just run the floor and play hard on defense. We want to run defense into offense.”

The Illini continued to build that lead, building it as large at 34 points (84-50) late in the second half, but Underwood was especially pleased of 16-0 run late in the first half which included the 11 straight points from Shannon.

“I was really pleased with that group. We finally found a rhythm where we didn’t foul, got some stops and we got out running,” he said. “I think we had three freshmen on the court for a good piece of that, which is really positive and good to see.”

Those three freshmen were Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, Niccolo Moretti and Amani Hansberry, that trio combined for 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Moretti left the game late in the first half with a foot injury and didn’t return to the floor, he was seen with a walking boot after the game.

“Terrence stepped on it,” Underwood said. “He plays with speed. Very few guys can play with speed and play with a thought process that is slow. He does that very, very well. Guys love playing with him because he is highly intelligent in terms of his feel. He delivers the ball on time to the right place.

“I was really proud of him (tonight) because of his defense and that’s an area that he has been challenged the most. But I thought defensively, he was every bit as good as he was offensively.”

For Hansberry, it has been continual improvement as he is average 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

“It’s never really flashy,” Underwood said. “All he does is everything he is supposed to do.”

Hansberry acknowledges that he is still learning.

“As a freshman, you make mistakes and you learn from them,” he said. “I’m creating my role.

“Coach Brad tells me to rim run, seal off and just play hard — leave it all on the floor.”

Illinois 87 Valparaiso 64

In the first 20 minutes Friday night at the State Farm Center, former Illini standout Roger Powell Jr. saw his Valpariso Beacons build a 45-37 lead over Illinois.

It looked a very special homecoming for Powell, but then the second half happened.

The Illini outscored the Beacons 49-19 on its way to a 23-point victory.

Four Illinois players scored in double figures with Shannon leading the way with 22, next came Dain Dainja with 16, Luke Goode had 13 and Ty Rodgers had 10.

Isaiah Stafford had a game-high 30 points for Valparaiso.

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