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Illinois Basketball: 5 Observations from Terrence Shannon’s Return

Illinois Basketball won big over Rutgers in Terrence Shannon’s return. He provided speed and power on the fast-break that Illinois sorely missed, as well as bringing a spark to the defensive end of the floor with his length and ability to guard multiple positions.



Jan 21, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) reacts during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball took care of business against Rutgers on Sunday afternoon, winning 86-63.

The scoreline wasn’t the biggest story of the day, though. That belongs to Terrence Shannon Jr., who made his return from suspension. Shannon missed the last six basketball games, but Illinois (mostly) took care of business in his absence. They went 4-2 and had several key guys step up and into new and expanded roles.

How did Illinois Basketball look with Shannon back in the lineup? Here are 5 observations from the win…

  1. Illinois looked electric on the fast-break once again

This had been missing for Illinois Basketball over the last six games. While they certainly looked explosive offensively, Terrence Shannon adds a whole new dynamic to the team. His speed and power on the fast-break are nearly impossible to contain, and it led to several free throws for the All-American.

     2. Shannon provided a spark defensively

While, yes, Illinois maintained their offensive pace without Shannon in the lineup, their defense took a few steps back. They desperately missed his length and versatility as a defender. Hawkins struggled in the post once again on Sunday, and it appears teams have figured out how to attack Illinois if they have a capable big man – pound it in the post.

     3. The role players continued to… roll

One of the questions many of us had when Shannon’s return was announced was, “How are the role guys going to adjust?” Many of them found confidence and new roles in Shannon’s absence. Illinois Basketball will be happy with the results if this is how it’s going to look. Justin Harmon might have been Illinois’ best player on the court today, going off for a team-high 18 points. Quincy Guerrier did his thing as well, posting another double-double. While Hawkins struggled with his shot early, he hit a big three to swing the momentum back Illnois’ way. Domask found his way to double figures as well, even if it seemed like it took him a bit to settle into the game.

    4. 6th Man Terrence Shannon

Brad Underwood decided to take Terrence Shannon off the bench for his return instead of inserting him into the starting lineup. He cited “integration” as the reason for this decision, and Shannon performed well despite a rusty jump shot. Shannon received a standing ovation upon checking in, a sight that may have been uncomfortable for some fans. It is a near guarantee Shannon will be welcomed by the opposite reaction by opposing student sections when Illinois hits the road this week.

     5. Illinois closed the basketball game

The Illini have gotten out to great starts in nearly every game that Shannon was suspended. The issue they were starting to run into was not being able to put their foot on the gas and not allowing opponents to find a rhythm. It looked like things were headed in the “Maryland direction” after Rutgers cut it to 4 points, but Illinois’ All-American checked back in and took the game over with two huge fast-break layups.

This was a great tone-setting win for Illinois in Terrence Shannon’s return. However, a totally difference environment awaits Illinois on Wednesday night as they head to Evanston for a showdown against Northwestern. How will they respond? We’ll just have to wait and see.

**all stats provided by Sports Reference**

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Zach Leslie is one of original members of Armchair Illini, your go-to sources of University of Illinois news. He has sports content published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits and more. He is also one of the most talented videographers in Illini Nation and has published work on some of the most famous Cinema Review sites such as LetterBoxd.