CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Coleman Hawkins didn’t waste any time making a splash. The junior forward more than showed what he’s capable of in the season opener against Eastern Illinois Monday night, scoring a career high 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, helping the Illini (1-0) to a 30-point win over the Panthers (0-1) at State Farm Center.

Hawkins made quick work of his first opportunity on the court in 2022-23, splashing five of his first six 3s in the opening 20 minutes. His 18 first half points paved the way for the Illini to take a 15-point lead into the locker room in a game they controlled the rest of the way.

“I feel a lot more confident, you know I shoot a lot of shots in practice just like that,” Hawkins said about his performance. “I know freshman and sophomore year people would judge me off my 3-point shooting, I wasn’t confident at all back then, the ball felt a lot different than it does right now so.”

“Now he’s confident, now he’s comfortable,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “That thing look as pretty as any jump shot out there when it comes off his hand, he’s a terrific shooter.”

Illinois showed its new look style in the opener, with a more up-and-down tempo, along with an aggressive defensive mindset. The Illini blocked nine shots and grabbed 10 steals, outrebounding the Panthers 53-20.

The Illini return to the court Friday night hosting University of Missouri-Kansas City for an 8 p.m. tip-off on Big Ten Network.