CHAMPAIGN — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 15 points and No. 25 Illinois went on a 16-5 run to end the game to turn back upset-minded Oakland 64-53 on Friday night.
Quincy Guerrier and Dain Dainja were forces inside for Illinois (2-0). Guerrier had 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds and Dainja had 10 points and seven rebounds. Ty Rodgers also had 10 points for Illinois.
Trey Townsend had 19 points and team-best 10 rebounds for Oakland (0-2).
“I was stressed about this game,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. “I know how good a team Oakland is and what a good coach they have. We found a way to win an ugly game with our defense and I’m very happy about that.”
Guerrier, a transfer from Oregon who is Illinois’ oldest player at age 24, also pointed to the Illini defense as the reason for the win.
“We had 11 straight stops in the second half,” he said. “We want defense to be our identity. That way you can win when you’re not shooting well, like tonight.”
Illinois was 4 of 16 on 3-pointers against Oakland and 8 of 16 at the free throw line.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe, who is in his 40th season as Oakland’s coach and is fourth among active Division 1 coaches with 675 career wins, was disappointed.
“I’ve been around a long time. I don’t want moral victories. We came here to win,” he said. “I blame myself for not subbing better in the second half. Our kids were tired. “I was very impressed with Illinois. Wow, can they guard. Shannon did a great job on Jack Gohle.”
Gohle scored 18 points Monday against Ohio State on six 3-pointers, but made just two against Illinois.
Oakland senior guard Rocket Watts played two seasons at Michigan State at the start of his collegiate career and averaged 14 points in three games against the Illini while he was with the Spartans. On Friday, Watts played just five minutes and didn’t score.
“I wasn’t happy with him,” Kampe said, explaining why Watts, who was in the starting lineup, rode the bench most of the night.
Oakland took an 8-0 lead. But the Golden Grizzlies scored just seven points over the next 10 minutes and Illinois went ahead for the first time 17-15 on a pair of free throws by Shannon.
Illinois led 28-27 at halftime.
Illinois: For the second straight game, the Illini came out sleep walking. They woke up in the second half Monday to beat Eastern Illinois handily in their opener, but couldn’t put away Oakland until late in the second half.
Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies have never been afraid to go on the road to play Power 5 opponents. They stood toe-to-toe with No. 25 Illinois after losing by six points Monday at Ohio State.
Illinois: The Illini face No. 5 Marquette at home Tuesday.
Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies take on Bowling Green on Tuesday in their home opener.