Illinois knocks off Gonzaga in battle of ranked teams
Spokane, WA (Sports Network) - Brandon Paul scored 35 points to lead the 13th- ranked Illinois Fighting Illini to an 85-74 victory over No. 10 Gonzaga.
Tracy Abrams had 14 points and D.J. Richardson added 11 for Illinois (10-0), which snapped a five-game losing streak to ranked opponents and posted its first non-conference road win against a Top-10 foe since beating then-No. 4 Georgia Tech on March 1, 1986.
Kelly Olynyk paced the Bulldogs (9-1) with 16 points and eight rebounds. Elias Harris contributed 15 points, seven boards and four assists.
"Illinois is really good," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "We knew they could shoot and they shot the ball really well. They made plays and bothered us all night on the bounce."
Feeding off the energetic crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Bulldogs opened the game on an 8-0 run. Their lead grew to 31-20 when Kevin Pangos hit a 3-pointer with 8:16 remaining in the first half.
But the Illini rallied, forcing 12 Gonzaga turnovers, and the teams were deadlocked, 41-41, at halftime despite the Bulldogs shooting 60.9 percent.
"I learned and reconfirmed what I knew about them and that is that we are pretty resilient," said Illinois coach John Groce.
Myke Henry knocked down a trey early in the second half to give the Illini their first lead at 44-43. The teams continued to go back-and-forth until Illinois used 10-2 run to go up 59-51 on another Henry three.
Gonzaga pulled to within 61-58, but the visitors went up 68-59 when Richardson drained a 3-pointer with 8:50 left.
The Bulldogs continued to battle and two Olynyk free throws closed the gap to 73-70 with 3:42 remaining before Illinois pulled away for good down the stretch.
The Illini held Gonzaga to 38.5 percent shooting in the second half ... Illinois shot 50 percent for the game ... Pangos had 10 points.