CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn scored 18 points and Terrence Shannon Jr. added 16 as No. 25 Illinois pulled away in the second half to beat Eastern Illinois 80-52 on Monday night in an opener.
Twelve players scored for the Illini as they used their depth to turn away the Panthers in the non-conference game.
Gibbs-Lawhorn, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard on a team of mostly upperclassmen, ,made 7 of 10 shots, including a one-hand dunk in the first half that excited the crowd.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Gibbs-Lawson said. “I’ve played against high-level players.”
Kooper Jacobi scored 10 points and had 11 rebounds for Eastern Illinois.
Ahead 37-25 at halftime, the Illini put away the Panthers with a 21-6 flurry to start the second half
Eastern Illinois took a 15-6 lead before the Illini rallied. It took a 10-point run in the final 3:03 of the first half to give Illinois its 12-point halftime lead. The Illini led at the break despite making only 4 of 17 3-point shots and shooting 3 for 10 on free throws.
They finished just 10 for 32 on 3s.
“We were flat. Unemotional. And we had no attention to detail,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “But we found a way to win.”
Illinois was 12 for 23 at the free-throw line.
“We came out flat and that’s on me,” Shannon said. “I have to do a better job of being a leader.”
Eastern Michigan coach Marty Simmons was happy with his team’s effort.
“We competed very well at the start. We just weren’t able to respond late in the first half when Illinois picked up the pressure,” he said. “I don’t think any of our guys had stage freight.”