Content warning: This article contains depictions of alleged sexual assault.
Three days after Illinois supporters celebrated his return from suspension with a standing ovation, Terrence Shannon Jr. received an entirely different reaction during his first road game since his arrest on a charge of felony rape.
Northwestern students taunted the All-America candidate unrelentingly Wednesday night during the Wildcats' 96-91 overtime victory over the 10th-ranked Illini.
It started during lineup introductions when the Northwestern crowd greeted Shannon with a hail of boos. A hearty mock cheer followed less than a minute after tipoff when Shannon's first shot attempt clanged off the rim.
The Northwestern students only became more callous and cutthroat as the game went along. Thunderous "No means no!" chants rained down during the game's first media timeout and again when Shannon went to the free-throw line midway through the first half.
Student section chanting “no means no” during Terrence Shannon’s foul shots. Powerful stuff. pic.twitter.com/6BolCUQAsh
— Audrey Pachuta (@AudreyPachuta) January 25, 2024
The chants and catcalls from Northwestern students were an early glimpse for Shannon of what life on the road will be like for the rest of the season. The response doesn't figure to be any friendlier when Illinois visits Ohio State next Tuesday or Michigan State and Maryland in mid-February.
When asked about the chants Northwestern students aimed at Shannon, Illinois coach Brad Underwood seemed to suggest that he somehow didn't hear them.
"There were?" he responded. "That's life on the road. We get all kinds of chants on the road."
Underwood went on to say that he didn't expect vitriol from opposing fans to have any impact on Shannon or his Illinois teammates.
"We've been in a lot of environments in this league," Underwood said. "I had chicken wings thrown at me last year at Maryland, so that stuff is insignificant."
The incident that led to Shannon’s arrest and subsequent suspension occurred inside a crowded Lawrence, Kansas, bar the night of the Sept. 8 Illinois vs. Kansas football game. The alleged victim told Lawrence police that a man groped her under her skirt and underwear and sexually assaulted her, according to a probable cause affidavit released to Yahoo Sports earlier this month by the Douglas County District Court.
While the man did not give his name, the alleged victim told police that she was able to identify him as the 6-foot-6 Shannon after sifting through photos of the Kansas and Illinois football and men’s basketball teams on social media. The alleged victim reported the incident to police the following afternoon and visited a Lawrence hospital for a sexual assault examination.
Since his arrest, Shannon’s attorneys have repeatedly declared that he is innocent and highlighted the dearth of surveillance evidence or witness testimony against him. “The alleged incident occurred in a very public bar,” they noted in a court filing, yet police have yet to uncover any witnesses.
Illinois indefinitely suspended Shannon from all basketball activities on Dec. 28 after authorities in Lawrence issued a warrant for his arrest the previous day. The suspension lasted until last Friday, when a federal judge granted Shannon a temporary restraining order that required Illinois to lift its suspension and reinstate him to the basketball team.
Judge Colleen R. Lawless ruled that the university's student-athlete misconduct process neglected the principles of due process and the presumption of innocence. Shannon’s attorneys described that process as "fatally flawed" in their complaint, pointing out that their client wasn’t allowed to attend any hearing, received no record of the proceedings and never even learned the identity of the panel members who upheld his suspension.
Illinois won four of six games in Shannon's absence, keeping itself in striking distance of Big Ten co-leaders Purdue and Wisconsin. The senior came off the bench to score 16 points in his return against Rutgers last Sunday, but he had a quieter performance as a starter against Northwestern.
Twelve points marked Shannon's season low, as did eight field-goal attempts. Shannon sank only one 3-pointer and tallied more turnovers (5) than assists (3).
Asked what Shannon needs to do to return to his previous All-America-caliber form, Underwood immediately responded, "Time."
"He was out a month," Underwood pointed out.
Now, for better or worse, he's back, and Illinois must deal with everything that comes with that.