CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — No. 25 Illinois wrapped up a perfect preseason with a 82-75 exhibition win over No. 1 Kansas in the Maui Strong Relief Matchup on Sunday.
More than 12,000 people filled the State Farm Center, as the Illini and Jayhawks helped raise money for those impacted by the Lahaina wildfires. All money raised from the exhibition game is being donated to Hawai’i Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund.
Don’t tell Terrence Shannon Jr. the game didn’t count. The Illinois senior gave it all he had against the Jayhawks, scoring a game-high 28 points. For Shannon it sets the standard of what the preseason All-American says needs to happen every game this season.
“Every game we plan in, we want to win and we don’t go into a game saying, ‘Oh, it’s just an exhibition and we need to get through it and see where we’re at,'” Shannon said. “We’re trying to win.”
“It’s been a big focus,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s one of the standards we’ve tried to set, the cliché of being an everyday guy.”
The Illini win spoiled Bill Self’s return to Champaign. The former coach was on the sidelines at State Farm Center for the first time in two decades, taking a moment after the game to soak it all in, with a look towards the rafters and his Big Ten title banners that still hang.
“It was good to walk in but it wasn’t emotional, not at all,” Self said. “Would it have been 15 years ago? Yes, but there’s enough water under the bridge and I’ve had enough stuff happen, real life episodes and events go on to make a departure from an institution not as big a deal as what I thought it was in real time.”
Self wasn’t the only one making a return trip to Champaign-Urbana. Former Michigan center Hunter Dickinson heard plenty of boos from the Illini crowd every time he touched the ball.
“You know I think it’s…” Dickinson said, taking a pause to answer after being asked about his relationship with Illinois fans. “I can’t give you a good answer right now, I’m sorry.”
Now they start to count. The regular season begins Monday, Nov. 6 as the Illini host Eastern Illinois in the opener for the second straight season.