WCIA — Coming off a disappointing loss to Penn State a week ago, No. 18 Illinois (8-3, 0-2) did enough after a week off to handedly beat Alabama A&M (3-7) 68-47.

The win was not assured midway through the second half, as Illinois only scored one field goal in the first nine and a half minutes coming out of the break. The Bulldogs closed to within three points before Illinois opened up the margin once again.

Matthew Mayer led the way in scoring for Illinois with 21 points and a 9-for-12 shooting night. Coming off back-to-back tough games, Terrence Shannon Jr. contributed to the win with 18 points.

“I was pretty upset in the huddle and I let everybody know.” Mayer said of a late timeout in the second half. “I just try to play as hard as I could and that was about it. We got a lot to figure out internally between the players and the coaches. I think it’s going to be something we’re going to have to figure out in practice.”

“Personally, I like what I saw,” Underwood said of Mayer. “He was pretty good at the end of the game. He needs to be a guy that’s a leader. He needs to be a guy that’s been there. He’s a guy that is trying to win. He’s a guy that’s very competitive. I’m sure he was frustrated.”

“It’s stuff we can fix, obviously, but once again we’re a team and we know we can be one of the best teams in the country,” Shannon said. “We just got to live up to it and play better.”

Illinois still struggled turning the ball over, as Alabama A&M had 16 points of its 18 turnovers as a team. But holding AAMU to just 30 percent from the field was enough for the Illini to win comfortably.

Illinois now gets ready for the annual Braggin’ Rights Game in St. Louis on Thursday. The Illini will look to retain the trophy over Missouri, who enter the game 10-1 on the season.