CHAMPAIGN — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 24 points and Coleman Hawkins had 23 points and 12 rebounds as No. 23 Illinois cruised to an 87-57 win over Eastern Illinois on Monday night.
Dain Dainja added 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Illini, who outrebounded the Panthers 53-30 and scored 21 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds.
Kinyon Hodges scored 14 points and Yaakema Rose added 10 for Eastern Illinois.
Shannon Jr. set the tone early in his Illinois debut with an athletic, one-handed slam in transition to put his team up 11-6 early. The Texas Tech transfer took off somewhere between the free throw line and the ‘I’ in the Big Ten logo.
Hawkins quickly answered questions about who might replace the production of departed sharpshooters Jacob Grandison and Trent Frazier. He shot 5 for 6 on 3-pointers in the first half to help Illinois spring out to a 34-20 lead by the 5:17 mark of the first half.
The Panthers struggled through a 1-for-12 shooting stretch midway through the second half.
Shannon’s layup with 7:18 left capped a 19-3 run to give Illinois a 30-point lead.
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers look like a team that will surpass its pitiful 5-26 record from last year. Hodges didn’t look hesitant against a talented group of opposing guards and the Panthers created some open looks in the half-court offense.
Illinois: Shannon looks like a primary scorer in the Big Ten and freshmen Clark, Rodgers, Epps and Harris all had flashes of promise in their NCAA debuts.
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers face another in-state foe when they host Illinois State on Thursday.
Illinois: Hosts Kansas City on Friday night.