Shannon still finding his way post-suspension

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CHAMPAIGN — Terrence Shannon Jr. missed his first five shots in his return to the court this past Sunday against Rutgers before finding a rhythm midway through the second half doing what he does best.

Jump shots have not been Shannon's strong suit post-suspension, but the Illinois men's basketball guard wound up with 16 points in the 86-63 win at State Farm Center against the Scarlet Knights because he could still get to the basket. Wednesday night's game at Northwestern was similar. Jumpers mostly didn't fall for the 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard, but using his size, speed and strength to get to the rim mostly did.

Shannon is averaging 14 points in his first two games following a six-game absence because of his university-imposed — and since reversed — suspension following his arrest on a rape charge from an alleged incident in early September in Lawrence, Kan. He's shooting just 39 percent from the field and has only made 1 of 10 three-pointers combined against Rutgers and Northwestern.

It's neither the production nor efficiency Shannon showed in the first 11 games of the season. A level of play that had him looking like a lock for All-American honors and at least a formidable challenger in an attempt to dislodge Purdue center Zach Edey from the stranglehold he has on Big Ten Player of the Year.

Here's the thing. Illinois coach Brad Underwood didn't expect Shannon's return after nearly a month off from games to be without its struggles. Neither did his teammates.

"He's going to get back to what he was doing," Illinois forward Quincy Guerrier said. "He didn't play for a month. You're not supposed to expect high expectations right away. He's one of the best players in the country, and he'll keep working and will be back for sure."

Underwood's response to what the continued reintegration process had to be for Shannon was simple. Time.

A word he repeated after acknowledging Shannon's 22-day absence and then opted to say no more on the matter during a brief postgame press conference late Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena after No. 10 Illinois sustained a 96-91 overtime loss against Northwestern. Marcus Domask said all Shannon needs is more reps in practice and in games. Shannon practiced twice before his return against Rutgers and then had another two-day prep before Wednesday's game at Northwestern.

"Any time you take a break, coming back is tough," Domask said. "I think he's done a really good job. You can work out, but you might not have your exact feel back. He's played good, but once he really gets his feel back, that's when we'll be really tough."

Shannon will have a more welcoming crowd at State Farm Center when No. 10 Illinois (14-5, 5-3 Big Ten) returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Indiana (12-7, 4-4) than he did Wednesday night in Evanston. The Northwestern fans alternated between chants of "No means no!" and "Lock him up!" and "Guilty!" during the game.

Underwood dismissed those chants as anything more than "life on the road."

"Terrence is good," Domask added. "He's just going to play his game, and we're all just going to play our game. We're not worried about outside noise."