Lineup, Wardrobe, Defensive Changes Lift Illini To 85-52 Rout of Bethune-Cookman

By IlliniGuys Staff

December 29, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Steve Snider/IlliniGuys)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois came back from its holiday break looking like a different team in every way and the result was a very November-like performance.

Dain Dainja and Sencire Harris celebrated their first starts in an Illini uniform by scoring career highs to lead five Illinois players in double figures in a 85-52 runaway win over visiting Bethune-Cookman.

Illinois (9-4, 0-2) closes out its non-conference schedule and improves to 4-0 in games after a loss.

Illini head coach Brad Underwood said in his pregame media availability on Wednesday to expect changes and he followed through with an adjusted starting lineup.  Out were freshman point guard Skyy Clark, nursing a shoulder injury suffered in practice earlier this week, and sophomore forward RJ Melendez and in were Dainja and Harris.

Dainja responded with 22 points, his highest point total since scoring 13 points in the win over then-8th ranked UCLA in Las Vegas on November 18th.  Harris, credited by Underwood earlier this month as the one player on the team who "brings it" every night, scored 12 for the first double-digit game in his young collegiate career.

Also put on the shelf was the switching defensive attack that resulted in far too many missed assignments and easy baskets in the blowout loss to Missouri a week ago.  Illinois returning to a simplified man-to-man defense and that resulted in 10 steals - their most since November - and 21 forced turnovers.

For the first time since the pandemic, the Illini coaches ditched the athletic gear for more traditional sportcoats with Underwood donning the iconic orange jacket made famous by the late Lou Henson.

Coleman Hawkins, who had struggled since scoring his first career triple-double against Syracuse a month ago, turned in his third career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

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