CHAMPAIGN – After being sidelined for the previous two games and then having an unproductive first 20 minutes, Terrence Shannon Jr. came alive along with the rest of his Illinois teammates in the second half Thursday night.
In the process, the Chicago native had arguably the best half of basketball of his college career when the Illini really needed it.
Down by 18 points at halftime to No. 21 Northwestern at the State Farm Center, Shannon spearheaded a major Illinois run in the second half as they outscored the Wildcats 47-25 in the final 20 minutes to win it 66-62.
The guard, who missed the last two Illini games with a concussion and wasn’t cleared to play until Thursday night, scored 24 of his team-high 26 points in the second half. The former Lincoln Park High School standout was 7-of-8 from the field and hit four-three pointers to help Illinois improve to 10-7 in the Big Ten and 19-9 overall.
“It was all of us together,” said Shannon of the comeback. “Matt (Mayer) hitting me with the drift three in the corner, that was the first three I got in the second half. Just us playing together and running our offense. When we do that, we’re pretty hard to beat.”
Shannon, the Illini’s leading scorer, had hit the third-highest point total of the season in helping his team pull off their biggest halftime comeback of the season. They’d previously rallied from a 15-point hole against UCLA on November 18 in Las Vegas to win, which Shannon helped with 29 points.
In 26 games this season, the guard is averaging 17.3 points in his first year with Illinois after transferring from Texas Tech.
“That was UCLA Terrence, that was early season,” said Illinois head coach Brad Underwood of the guard’s effort. “I had no idea what to expect, I had no idea pregame if he was going to play. Everything in our protocols is about symptoms and reactions to movement and activity and he was cleared.
“I usually don’t start guys who are out for a week or longer, so he came off the bench. But I thought his defense on Chase (Audige) was every bit as good as his offense. He’s an all-league caliber player, and he rose to that occasion tonight, and we needed every point and every defensive effort.”
Shannon’s effort helped to counter the one delivered by Northwestern guard Boo Buie, who scored a career-high 35 points. It was the most by a Wildcats player in one game in 2011 and his 22 in the first half helped the Wildcats to a 37-19 lead at the break.
But Shannon had the answer for the opposition in helping Illinois to one of their bigger wins of the season.