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Mar 26, 2024 7:21 pm

Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois take on Iowa State’s D in Sweet 16

terrence shannon

BOSTON — If Iowa State wants to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2000, it will have to find a way to get through Terrence Shannon Jr.

Shannon is a perfect 6-0 against the Cyclones, and he will have a chance to improve that record on Thursday when Illinois and Iowa State meet in a battle of East Region teams in the Sweet 16.

All six of Shannon’s previous victories vs. the second-seeded Cyclones came when he was at Texas Tech, and he averaged 10.0 points per game across those contests.

Since joining the third-seeded Fighting Illini (28-8) last season, Shannon has blossomed. He is averaging a team-high 23.3 points per game in 2023-24, most recently scoring 30 on 10-of-14 shooting in Illinois’ 89-63 rout of No. 11 seed Duquesne on Saturday.

Rather than focusing on the damage that Shannon and Illinois have the potential to do, Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger is more concerned with how his team executes its own game plan.

“I would just say we believe in our way of doing things, and we certainly want to be aware of tendencies of our opponents and things that we can prepare for,” Otzelberger said. “But we spend a lot more time focusing on us being the best version of ourselves.

“So we will absolutely be very mindful of that opportunity, and at the same time, my messaging to our guys is going to be to continue to focus on us, being the best team that we can be.”

The Cyclones (29-7), who rank fourth in the country in scoring defense at 61.3 points allowed per game, beat seventh-seeded Washington State 67-56 in the second round. They got 15 points from Tamin Lipsey and 14 from Curtis Jones.

Iowa State overcame an ice-cold start in which it went 1-for-13 from the field and scored just four points through the game’s first nine minutes.

Points could be hard to come by again on Thursday against a Fighting Illini defense that just held Duquesne star Dae Dae Grant to seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Grant came into the game averaging 16.7 points.

Still, forward Coleman Hawkins doesn’t believe Illinois has hit its ceiling.

“I feel really confident in this team because I feel like there is still something missing that we haven’t reached yet,” Hawkins said. “I think there is a whole other level of intensity that we can play with, both offensively and defensively.”

While the Fighting Illini have seemingly peaked at the right time and are riding a six-game winning streak, Illinois guard/forward Marcus Domask knows his team can’t take its foot off the gas against the Cyclones.

“I think we’re hitting our stride and turning in the right direction. You always want to start playing your best basketball come March. And I think we’re doing that. I feel confident,” Domask said. “Iowa State is a really good team. So we’ve got to play our best to beat them.”

Iowa State is no stranger to the Sweet 16, also reaching it in 2022.

“Nothing is better — sweeter — than going to the Sweet 16 twice in three years,” Cyclones forward Robert Jones said.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini are playing past the Round of 32 for the first time since 2005, when they ended up going all the way to the national championship game and falling to North Carolina.

For Illinois, Domask backs Shannon with 16.1 points per game, while Hawkins is averaging 12.3. Quincy Guerrier pairs an average of 9.8 points with a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.

Keshon Gilbert paces Iowa State with 13.7 points per game, followed by Lipsey (12.5 ppg), Milan Momcilovic (11.2) and Curtis Jones (10.6).

Thursday marks the 15th meeting between the teams. The Illini hold an 11-3 advantage in the all-time series.

–Nick Galle, Field Level Media

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