Jelani Hewitt led Georgia Southern with 22.
Illinois went into halftime tied with the Eagles at 31, but used a surge in the middle of the second half to widen the gap and held on in the end to get the victory.
Offensively, Illinois struggled to find open looks from three in the first half, which may have been due in part to the absence of Nnanna Egwu, who sat an extended period of time, and his ability to set ball screens. However, they started to find their range in the second half and guys like Rice, Cosby, and Starks made some key shots.
Defensively, Illinois struggled in the low post much of the game against the physicality of Georgia Southern, something they know should not have happened. But late in the second half, the Illini tightened up defensively around the perimeter and crashed the defensive boards much more effectively.
The Illini have a quick turnaround and will take on Coppin State Sunday evening.