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Bob's buzzer beaters | Shannon & Co. make it look easy

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I'm not sure how the All-Big Ten voters are going to deal with Illinois' Terrence Shannon Jr. when it comes to filling out their ballots.

He missed six games and is facing serious criminal charges.

But he showed again Tuesday against Michigan why he was considered an All-American candidate.

Shannon scored early and often at State Farm Center, notching 19 by halftime and finishing with 31 in Illinois' easy 97-68 victory against the overwhelmed Wolverines. That followed a 28-point effort by Shannon on Saturday in a loss at Michigan State.

Shannon was uber-efficient Tuesday, hitting 11 of 15 shots from the field and 5 of 8 three-pointers. He did miss a free throw.

If he shoots like he did Tuesday, Illinois is going to be difficult for anyone to beat.

HOT OFF THE PRESS#Illini have their way with cellar dwellers pic.twitter.com/aPsi9rmPOZ

— The News-Gazette (@news_gazette) February 14, 2024

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Yes, Tuesday's game went well. But the Illinois players and coaches know what is next: a trip to the team's recent House of Horrors, Maryland's XFINITY Center. Illinois has dropped five in a row at the home of the Terrapins. The last win came in 2011 — when Bruce Weber was still the coach. He is now an analyst on BTN.

By reputation, the Maryland fans are considered among the nastiest in the Big Ten. It goes back to the school's days in the ACC, where the rivalries are much less than friendly.

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Beat Maryland (no easy task) and Illinois will climb back toward the Top 10. The team has been toggling between its current No. 14 and 10 for several weeks.

What really counts is what the NCAA tournament selection committee thinks. A No. 3 seed seems a good possibility at this point, but a strong finish could net a No. 2.

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After consecutive close home games against Indiana and Nebraska, the Illinois fans were able to enjoy a laugher. Shannon's two free throws with 14:52 left gave Illinois a 30-point lead.

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Michigan played a terrible first half its last time out Saturday at Nebraska, trailing by 20 points at the break. So. you had to think Juwan Howard would have his guys fired up for the opening 20 minutes against Illinois. And they were, Sort of. The Wolverines had 20 points in the paint and trailed by 18. Better than 20.

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Face in the crowd: former Illini quarterback Juice Williams, who was shown on the videoboards in the first half and received a loud ovation. One of the best at the position in school history. Williams put himself on the permanent Illini favorite list with his historic performance against No. 1-ranked Ohio State in 2007. Can't believe that was more than 16 years ago.

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Tuesday's game was streamed on Peacock with Noah Eagle and former Illini Stephen Bardo on the call.

For the early part of the game, I had the broadcast on my phone while watching from the auxiliary press area in the middle of the arena. Honestly. a bit too much going on at once.

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During the pregame show, Bardo discussed recent struggles for Illinois on defense. And what Underwood planned to do about it. Bardo's experience as a member of the beloved "Flyin' Illini" adds a ton of credibility to the broadcasts. Bardo has been there, done that.

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Bardo is clearly a fan of Illinois' Coleman Hawkins.

"One of the most unique talents in college basketball," Bardo said with about 13 minutes left in the first half. "There's nothing he can't do."

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The 6 p.m. tipoff meant a late-arriving crowd. Twenty minutes before the start, the upper reaches of the soldout arena were filed sparsely.

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Hard for the fan base to get too worked up for a struggling opponent that Illinois had beat the last seven times before Tueday. Make that eight. Still, it is Michigan, so the Wolverines were booed vociferously. Too bad Hunter Dickinson isn't with Michigan anymore.