The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs 63-62. This was the Illini’s first game at Assembly Hall since November 12th.
Illinois overcame an off night shooting the ball. They hit just 33 percent of their first-half shots, but led the Runnin’ Bulldogs 24-23 at the half. Gardner-Webb hung with the Illini the entire game and led by two points with eleven seconds left in the game.
On Illinois’ final possession, Brandon Paul hit a wide open Tyler Griffey for the game winning 3-pointer from “the stratosphere.” The Runnin’ Bulldogs had four second to try to make a shot to tie or win the game, but they missed a 3-pointer from Tashan Newsome.
Illinois had four players with 13 points in the game. D.J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand, Paul, and Griffey all scored 13 points against Gardner-Webb. Bertrand and Paul also led the team with 6 rebounds a piece.
One player that struggled for the Illini in this game was Tracy Abrams. In their last game against Butler in the Maui Invitational, Abrams scored 17 points and racked up two steals. On Sunday, he did not score a single and turned the ball over four times. Abrams did not play most of the second half and Bertrand filled in for him off the bench.
However, head coach John Groce mentioned during the post game press conference that he’s be surprised if Abrams didn’t have a better game against Georgia Tech.
Gardner-Webb got nice performances from Donta Harper and Tashan Newsome. Harper scored 13 points while Newsome finished with 11 points off the bench.
The Fighting Illini are now 7-0 on the season.
Their next game will be at home against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. This game will be apart of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Georgia Tech is currently 4-1 on the season. They defeated Saint Mary’s 65-56 in the third place game of the DirecTV Classic.
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