CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Justin Harmon scored 18 points and Terrence Shannon Jr. added 16 in his return to lead five Illinois players in double figures as the No. 14 Illini beat Rutgers 86-63 on Sunday.
Shannon, in his first game back since the university was ordered to lift his suspension, came off the bench and played 28 minutes. He had four assists and made 8 of 10 shots from the free-throw line.
Shannon was suspended by the university on Dec. 28 because he’s facing a rape charge in a September incident in Kansas. But U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless ruled Friday that the university had violated Shannon’s civil rights and granted a preliminary injunction that required Illinois to reinstate Shannon to the team.
The Illini (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten Conference) were 4-2 in six games without Shannon, who hadn’t played since Illinois’ 97-73 victory over Missouri in St. Louis on Dec. 22.
Harmon said he was happy to see Shannon back on the floor.
“Our team feels whole again. We have our best player back,” he said.
Teammate Quincy Guerrier, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, said Shannon was a big reason for the victory.
“He got our transition game going and he improved our defense,” he said.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood said he was pleased with Shannon's performance considering he hadn't practiced with the team or played for three weeks.
“You could tell he was tired at times,” Underwood said. “He integrated in a nice way. He was pretty solid.”
Clifford Omoruyi had 22 points and nine rebounds for Rutgers (10-8, 2-5).
Despite the lopsided score, Underwood said it was a tough win.
“I have a great amount of respect for Steve (Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell) and the Rutgers program," he said. “They make everything you do so damn hard.”
After trailing 40-28 at halftime, the Scarlet Knights closed within 55-51 with 10:20 to go on a dunk by Omoruyi, but back-to-back layups by Shannon in 28 seconds put Illinois in front 60-51 with 9:04 left.
Coleman Hawkins and Marcus Domask each had 12 points for Illinois.
Rutgers: Omoruyi was the only Scarlet Knights player who gave Illinois problems offensively. While he was hard to stop under the basket, the 6-foot-11 center also made his first 3-pointer of the season on his first attempt.
Illinois: Illini fans showed support for Shannon by cheering when he entered the court for pregame warmups and giving him a standing ovation when he checked into the game with 17:37 to go in the first half. The cheers were even louder moments later when passes by Shannon on fastbreaks led to a dunk and a layup by Hawkins in 36 seconds. Shannon’s reception on the road won’t be as friendly.
Rutgers has never won at Illinois. The Scarlet Knights are 0-8 at the State Farm Center since 2015. Their closest calls were a 99-94 overtime loss on Feb. 9, 2019, and a 54-51 defeat on Jan. 11, 2020.
This is the highest-scoring Illinois team in three decades. The Illini came into Sunday’s game averaging 82.1 points per game. The 1993-94 squad, led by all-time leading career scorer and current Illinois radio analyst Deon Thomas, averaged 84 points per game.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will face No. 2 Purdue at home Sunday.
Illinois: The Illini will play Wednesday at Northwestern.
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