No. 16 Illinois overpowers Division I newcomer Lindenwood


Skyy Clark and RJ Melendez combined for 36 points on 15-of-20 shooting on Friday as No. 16 Illinois rolled to a 92-59 victory over Lindenwood in Champaign, Ill.

Clark finished 8 of 9 from the field for 19 points, while Melendez was 7 of 11 from the floor in a 17-point effort. Terrence Shannon Jr. chipped in 16 points, while Jayden Epps notched 12 points and three of the Fighting Illini’s 16 steals.

Keenon Cole scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and Kevin Caldwell Jr. had 10 points to lead Lindenwood (3-5), which is in its first season as a Division I program. The Lions committed 22 turnovers, missed 13 of their 18 3-point attempts and were outrebounded 38-22.

The Illini (5-1) also committed 22 turnovers, but they shot 58.1 percent from the field. Illinois bounced back from its first loss of the season, on Sunday against No. 16 Virginia in Las Vegas.

Melendez (15 points) and Clark (13) outscored Lindenwood by themselves in the first half. As a team, Illinois shot 63.6 percent in the opening period en route to a 49-25 advantage.

The Illini led 12-9 about four minutes into the game before Clark’s layup ignited a 13-4 run that gave the hosts their first double-digit lead. Sencire Harris and Melendez each had four points during the burst, which Epps capped with a 3-pointer to make it 25-13.

Cole scored the next four points, but Illinois answered with a 17-2 run to create significant separation. Clark made two 3-pointers during that uprising, while Melendez added one of his own.

Shannon’s dunk with 2:42 left to play in the half gave the Illini their largest lead to that point, 47-21.

Caldwell scored all 10 of his points in the first half to lead Lindenwood, which had as many turnovers as made baskets in the first half (nine).

Things didn’t get any better for the Lions in the second half.

The Illini opened the session on a 13-2 run, including five points by Shannon and four from Clark.

–Field Level Media

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