CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois basketball’s depth and experience has been widely talked about coming into the season with five seniors on the roster, including four fifth-year players. It didn’t take long for the Illini to flex that depth, with an unexpected player adding his name to the rotation as freshman Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn led all scorers in the season opener with 18 points.
After veterans Coleman Hawkins, Quincy Guerrier and Marcus Domask went for 38 points in the exhibition win over No. 1 Kansas, the seniors combined to score just 11 points against Eastern Illinois. It’s still early with just a three game sample size (and only one game that actually counts), and ebbs and flows are certainly going to be part of the season, but having multiple guys capable of stepping up is a comfort for head coach Brad Underwood.
“I thought we had some great play off our bench and those guys sparked us and I think that’s one of the real positive things we have this year is if guys aren’t sharp, then we’ll just sit them and find the right five and we did that and it’s nice to have that luxury,” Underwood said.
“That’s just how this team is built and that’s how it’s going to be all year,” Illinois junior guard Luke Goode said. “One guy is going to have a great game one game and struggle the next game and the other guy that comes in is going to have a great game so that’s the mindset of next guy up mentality and everybody can contribute.”
Illinois returns to the court Friday night hosting Oakland at 7 p.m. in a game only on Big Ten Network Plus, a pay for play streaming service.