The No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the #10 Gonzaga Bulldogs 85-74.
Illinois and the Bulldogs were tied 41-41 at the half.
It was at that moment when senior guard Brandon Paul decided his team needed a pep talk. According to ESPN, Paul said “I kept telling everybody, ‘This is it. We’ve got to take this right now. We’re not playing well, but we’re still in this game.”
Paul was the catalyst for Illinois in the game. He went 10 of 16 from the field which included 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. He made 10 out of 11 free throws and scored 35 points. Paul also added three assists, two blocks and three steals.
According to ESPN, Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few said “We didn’t have a guy who could guard him one-on-one basically” when asked about Paul’s play after the game.
Another player that had a big game for Illinois was senior guard D.J. Richardson. Richardson scored 11 points and racked up six rebounds. With just under 9:00 left in the second half, he nailed a three-point shot and went to the free throw line for the four-point play.
Two things the Fighting Illini did well against Gonzaga was 3-point shooting and not turning over the ball. They made 11 of 26 3-pointers in the game and shot 42.3% from beyond the arc. They also only turned the ball over nine times in the game.
Gonzaga had 16 turnovers in the game, but they also had four of their five starters reach double-digits in points. Their top two players were senior forward Elias Harris and junior forward Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk led the Bulldogs with 16 points and eight rebounds. He also led the team with six turnovers. Harris finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in Saturday’s game.
The Fighting Illini are now 10-0 on the season. This is the second straight season and third season since 2004 where they have been undefeated through their first ten games.
Illinois will play their next game against the Norfolk State Spartans on December 11th. Norfolk State knocked off the (2) Missouri Tigers in the second round the NCAA tournament last season. The Spartans are 5-5 this season.
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