Illinois overcomes slow start to defeat Eastern Illinois 80-52 in opener
Tue, Nov 7, 2023
NCAAB News (AP)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - -Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn scored 18 points and Terrence Shannon Jr. added 16 as No. 25 Illinois pulled away in the second half to beat Eastern Illinois 80-52 on Monday night in an opener.
Twelve players scored for the Illini as they used their depth to turn away the Panthers in the non-conference game.
Gibbs-Lawhorn, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard on a team of mostly upperclassmen, ,made 7 of 10 shots, including a one-hand dunk in the first half that excited the crowd.
"I wasn't nervous," Gibbs-Lawson said. "I've played against high-level players."
Kooper Jacobi scored 10 points and had 11 rebounds for Eastern Illinois.
Ahead 37-25 at halftime, the Illini put away the Panthers with a 21-6 flurry to start the second half
Eastern Illinois took a 15-6 lead before the Illini rallied. It took a 10-point run in the final 3:03 of the first half to give Illinois its 12-point halftime lead. The Illini led at the break despite making only 4 of 17 3-point shots and shooting 3 for 10 on free throws.
They finished just 10 for 32 on 3s.
"We were flat. Unemotional. And we had no attention to detail," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "But we found a way to win."
Illinois was 12 for 23 at the free-throw line.
"We came out flat and that's on me," Shannon said. "I have to do a better job of being a leader."
Eastern Michigan coach Marty Simmons was happy with his team's effort.
"We competed very well at the start. We just weren't able to respond late in the first half when Illinois picked up the pressure," he said. "I don't think any of our guys had stage freight."
After beating No. 1 Kansas in an exhibition, the Illini were ragged early. After going 9-22 last season, Eastern Illinois stood its ground against the Illini for the most of the first half, providing hope for a turnaround season.
Illinois is 40-2 in openers at the State Farm Center with a winning streak of 27 dating to Dec. 1, 1993.
Eastern Illinois Athletic Director Tom Michael was a four-year basketball letter-winner for Illinois from 1991-94. One of the best shooters in program history, he still holds Illini records for season (.493) and career (.449) three-point shooting.
BACK TO CHAMPAIGN
Eastern Illinois fifth-year senior Jermaine Hamlin began his college basketball career at Illinois, playing in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. During that time, the 6-foot-10 forward's primary role was to go up against All-American Kofi Cockburn during practices.
"He's the only person I've seen who was able to block Kofi's jump hook," Underwood said.
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers will face Monmouth of Ilinois on Wednesday in their home opener.
Illinois: The Illini continue their six-game homestand by hosting Oakland of Michigan on Friday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball"