Advertisement

Grades are in ... Monster game from Shannon keeps Illinois' title hopes alive

Mar. 16—Player of the game

Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr.

What Shannon did Saturday afternoon at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis was the proverbial "Hop on, I'm going to carry you to victory" performance. The veteran Illini guard didn't just set a new career high with 40 points. He also set a new Big Ten tournament single-game record, smashing former Northwestern guard Michael Thompson's previous high mark with 35 in 2011. Shannon was, of course, unstoppable in transition (and shot 13 of 16 free throws because of all the fouls he drew) and just as effective from three-point range (5 of 9 shooting from deep).

Backcourt

Illinois: A+

Nebraska: B+

Shannon might have carried his team for the bulk of Saturday's game, but he wasn't without support. Eventually. Marcus Domask flirted with a triple-double with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Ty Rodgers was dominant on the boards with 13 rebounds (seven offensive). Brice Williams (23 points) and Keisei Tominaga (18 points) needed 17 and 18 shots, respectively, to reach those totals.

Frontcourt

Illinois: B+

Nebraska: B-

Rienk Mast looked like the player most likely to set a new career high with the way he started Saturday's game. The Nebraska big man had 13 points in the first half, but ultimately fell short of his career high of 34 by a wide margin, missing all six shots he took in the second half and scoring just two points. Quincy Guerrier and Coleman Hawkins did just enough to counter Mast.

Bench

Illinois: B

Nebraska: B+

Illinois wound up with a one-man bench brigade for the second straight game, but Luke Goode scored an even higher percentage of the Illini's bench points than Dain Dainja did in Friday's quarterfinal win against Ohio State. As in all of them. Goode's 12 points came on 4 of 9 three-point shooting, and he added six rebounds and two assists for good measure. Not-particularly-deep Nebraska still outscored Goode 18-12.

Overall

Illinois: A

Nebraska: B

Falling behind by double digits in the second half ultimately hasn't hurt Illinois. But it's risky proposition moving forward. The Illini might not be able to find the answer if they do the same Sunday against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament championship game. The same thing applies next week in the NCAA tournament. Illinois got to 25 wins (and counting) this season mostly because it stayed competitive and didn't have to rely on monster comebacks. Probably a better approach moving forward.