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Grades are in: Shannon leads Illini in regular season finale

Mar. 10—PLAYER OF THE GAME

Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr.

Shannon was a menace in transition — at both ends. The veteran Illini guard was his typical unstoppable self with a full head of steam attacking the basket, but he was also an eraser defensively. The burst of speed Shannon put on in the first half to block what Iowa guard Josh Dix thought was going to be a breakaway dunk was a play only he could make on this Illinois team. Offensively, Shannon found a balance between beating Iowa defenders off the dribble and shooting over them, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting overall with a 3 of 8 mark from three-point range.

BACKCOURT

Illinois: B+

Iowa: B-

The Illini have typically had a potent 1-2 punch from its starting backcourt. Shannon and Marcus Domask have consistently been two of the best players in the Big Ten this season. It took Domask a while to hold up his end on Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa, but he did finish with (an inefficient) 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Iowa leaned on Payton Sandfort's 23 points with Tony Perkins struggling.

FRONTCOURT

Illinois: B+

Iowa: C-

February was an up-and-down month for Illinois forward Quincy Guerrier. Especially when it came to rebounding (i.e. the ones he wasn't getting). Guerrier's 14 points and 13 rebounds against Iowa was clearly more in line with the string of double-doubles he posted in January. Throw in 10 rebounds from Coleman Hawkins and some complementary scoring by Hawkins and Dain Dainja, and the Illini had the frontcourt advantage.

BENCH

Illinois: B-

Iowa: C+

Brad Underwood wants to use his bench. Getting production from the second unit — at least from one of them — is a priority for the Illinois coach. He hasn't gotten it lately. Dainja's nine points and five rebounds were the only notable bench production for the Illini, while Iowa got a serious spark from freshman point guard Brock Harding in the first half that ignited the near comeback attempt by the Hawkeyes.

OVERALL

Illinois: B

Iowa: C

Will Illinois enter "Win or go home" tournament play on the highest note? Not exactly. Beating Iowa was certainly better than the alternative, but that doesn't mean the Illini headed home to Champaign without some questions about their offense (other than Shannon) and, per usual this season, a defense that's not exactly firing on all cylinders. Both will need to be at a high level if this team wants to piece together the type of postseason success that's been missing the last few years.