Mon, 11 Dec 2023

No. 23 Illinois heats up in 2nd half, defeats Valparaiso

Field Level Media
18 Nov 2023, 13:25 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

After trailing for most of the first 25 minutes, No. 23 Illinois needed a huge second-half run to claim an 87-64 nonconference victory over visiting Valparaiso on Friday night in Champaign, Ill.

All-Big Ten guard Terrence Shannon Jr., who tweaked his ankle on the game's first possession, scored 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half for Illinois (3-1). Center Dain Dainja, starting in place of the injured Coleman Hawkins, posted a season-high 16 points to go with seven rebounds, and Luke Goode added 13 points and seven boards off the bench.

"When you don't show up and play the right way, it doesn't matter who your opponent is," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. "You've got to play with energy and passion and mental focus."

Junior college transfer Isaiah Stafford poured in 23 of his career-high 30 points in the first half as Valparaiso (2-2) built a 45-38 halftime lead.

Jerome Palm finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Cooper Schwieger added 12 points, but the Beacons shot just 20 percent from the field and missed all eight of their 3-point attempts in the second half.

Valparaiso's first-year head coach, Roger Powell Jr., the starting power forward on Illinois' 2005 squad that went 37-2 and reached the NCAA championship game, received a lengthy ovation during pregame introductions.

Then Powell's squad played inspired basketball to own the first half. The Beacons scored seven points in a 34-second span -- thanks to Stafford swiping the ball from Illinois' Marcus Domask on back-to-back possessions and turning them into a layup and a 3-pointer -- to take a 13-4 lead four minutes into the game.

Valparaiso owned a 45-38 lead at halftime thanks to Stafford's 23 points, but Shannon came out hunting his shot in the second half. When he drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 14:32 to play, Illinois took a 52-51 edge for its first lead since the opening moments.

Shannon, Dainja and Goode combined for Illinois' first 27 points of the second half -- which featured a 17-2 run from 15:21 to 11:32 -- to give the hosts a 62-53 cushion.

Stafford didn't score in the second half until he hit a 15-foot pullup with 8:27 to go, but the resulting 65-57 deficit would be the last time the Beacons were within single digits.

--Field Level Media

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