Highlights | Press Conference | Photo Gallery | Box Score (PDF)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — No. 18 Illinois took down Alabama A&M, 68-43, Saturday afternoon at State Farm Center. Matthew Mayer posted another strong performance for the Illini, scoring a season-high 21 points, and adding seven rebounds.
Terrence Shannon Jr. finished close behind Mayer with 18 points while Sencire Harris led the Illini (8-3) with a career-high eight rebounds.
A quick offensive start from both Mayer and Shannon Jr. pushed the Illini to a 14-7 lead in the first seven minutes of the game.
In his starting debut, freshman Jayden Epps broke up a short scoring drought for Illinois with a jumper, propelling the Orange and Blue to a 24-11 advantage early in the first half.
The Illini pushed their advantage to 17 at halftime, 36-19.
Coming out of the locker room, Alabama A&M (4-7) mounted a comeback effort on the heels of a 16-0 run that cut the Illini lead to 39-37 with just under 11 minutes to play. But Coleman Hawkins snapped the Illinois scoring drought with a pair of free throws at the 10:46 mark, sparking a 15-2 Illini run that pushed the lead back to double figures.
The Illini now turn their attention to Thursday’s matchup vs. rival Mizzou in the McBride Homes Braggin’ Rights game at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Tip off is set for 8 pm CT.
- Illinois improved to 8-3 overall, and 8-1 vs. non-conference opponents with a 68-47 victory over Alabama A&M.
- Illinois has now won seven straight non-conference home games at State Farm Center.
- The Illini are 1-0 against Alabama A&M; Saturday marked the first game in the series.
- Illinois held Alabama A&M to just 19 first-half points, the fewest allowed by the Illini defense in a single half this season, and the fewest in a first half since allowing 19 first-half points in a 59-56 road win at Northwestern on Jan 29, 2022.
- This season, the Illini had previously allowed a season-low 23 first-half points in wins over Kansas City (11/11/22) and Syracuse (11/29/22).
- The Illini also held Syracuse to just 21 second-half points in their 73-44 win, the lowest point totally allowed in any half prior to today’s effort in the opening stanza.
- The Illini outrebounded Alabama A&M by a 46-33 margin.
- It is the sixth consecutive game that the Illini have held a rebounding edge, and the ninth overall this season.
- The Illini are 7-2 on the year when outrebounding their opponent.
- Illinois’ largest lead vs. Alabama A&M reached as high as 21 points in the second half.
- The Illini led by 17 at halftime and withstood a 16-0 run by the Bulldogs in the second period which cut the margin to 38-37 with 10:54 to play.
- Illinois answered with a 15-2 run of their own to push the lead back to 53-39 at the 5:35 mark of the second half.
- Illinois held Alabama A&M to just 3-17 (17.6%) shooting from three-point range .
- It marked the fewest three pointers and lowest percentage by an Illini opponent since holding Kansas City to 3-21 (14.3%) in Game 2 of the season on Nov. 11.
- The Illini finished the game with a 28-16 edge in points in the paint.
- Illinois has won the battle for points in the paint in 10 off 11 games this season, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the paint in the team’s Dec. 6 win vs. no. 2 Texas at Madison Square Garden.
- Fifth-year senior Matthew Mayer led the Illini in scoring (21 points) and added seven rebounds.
- Mayer’s 21 points matched his season-high as an Illini, and finished one shy of tying the single-game high for his collegiate career.
- Mayer has scored 10+ points in three straight games, finishing each as the Illini’s top scorer. Overall, Mayer has tallied four double-digit scoring games this season.
- Mayer’s seven rebounds marked his most this season in a game in which he also posted double-digit points.
- Senior Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 18 points.
- Shannon Jr. scored in double digits in a team-leading nine games this season, including each of the team’s six home non-conference victories.
- Freshman Sencire Harris pulled down a career-most eight rebounds.
- It is the first game this season that Harris has finished as the Illini’s top rebounder.
- Freshman Jayden Epps started for the first time in his Illini career.
- Epps finished with five points and four rebounds in 26:47 of game action, his fourth game of the season in which he has logged at least 26 minutes.
- Junior Coleman Hawkins contributed nine points, five boards and a game-high four assists.
- Hawkins has recorded three or more assists in nine of the Illini’s 11 games this season, and has posted four or more helpers in each of the team’s past three contests.
“Defensively, I thought we did some really great things today. It was nice to get back and see that, it’s been something we’ve spent a lot of time on in practice. It’s always a good job when your opponent is shooting 33% from the three-point line, which is nice to see after the Penn State game.RJ (Melendez) hasn’t practice most of the week with a shoulder contusion;I thought defensively he was outstanding on the defensive help.
We struggled offensively then Matt took it over in the last 10 minutes of the game, which showed how much of a great player he is. Terrence was great defensively. We’ve been going at it, it’s been a hard week with finals and the first time we’ve had extensive practice time in awhile, so we have to clean some things up offensively. We looked good, moved the ball in the first half and then in second half we had the dry spell but onto the next one.”