CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Welcome to college basketball, Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn. The Illinois freshman came off the bench and provided a big spark scoring a game high 18 points in the season opener beating Eastern Illinois 80-52 Monday night.
The Illini (1-0) started off slow, trailing by as many as nine points in the first half before the Panthers (0-1) shooting went cold. Illinois closed the first half on a 10-0 run and 14-2 stretch in the final 5:30 before the break. Kooper Jacobi led the way for EIU with a team high 10 points.
Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 16 points with another freshman, Amani Hansberry, also showing some flash. The Maryland native scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds. Luke Goode added nine points making 3-of-5 from beyond the arc but overall the Illini struggled from 3, especially in the first half, making just 23.5% in the opening 20 minutes. For the game, the Illini finished at 31% from deep. Free throws also a concern for the Orange and Blue, making just 52% from the stripe, finishing 12-for-23.
Illinois’ bench was +27 outscoring Eastern 47-20, with the Illini depth showing in the second half. Points in the paint also went the Illini’s way with 36-22 advantage for the Orange and Blue.
After the game, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood announced Sencire Harris will take a redshirt year this season in a decision he made.
“He understands he needs to get stronger, get bigger,” Underwood said. “I just think that down the road, instead of a 10-minute a game guy, there’s going to be a 25-minute a game guy.”
Illinois returns to the court Friday night hosting Oakland for a 7 p.m. start at State Farm Center.