Illinois 85, Gonzaga 74: Rapid Reaction

Illinois 85, Gonzaga 74: Rapid Reaction

A quick look at Illinois' 85-74 win over Gonzaga Saturday.

Brandon Paul scored 35 points Saturday to push Illinois past No. 10 Gonzaga on the Bulldogs home court.

It was over when: Tracy Abrams sank two free throws to extend the lead to 80-71 with 1:52 remaining. Gonzaga was within stiking distance at 73-70, but four points from Abrams and a three-point play by Paul effectively ended the game.

Player of the game: Brandon Paul. As if there was any question. Paul was magnificent, scoring 18 first half points and propping the Illini up during some lean moments at the beginning of the game. He finished 10-of-16 from the floor and had four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Paul displayed a complete understanding of how to score the basketball, but he also played hard on the defensive end, too.

Unsung hero: Myke Henry. With the frontline in foul trouble, Henry played 22 minutes and scored six points. Those points came from two 3s early in the second half, which helped the Illini take control of the game.

Stat of the game: Three-point shooting. Illinois played to it's strength Saturday, shooting 26 3s, 11 of which went in (42.3 percent). That means 39 percent of Illinois' points came from downtown.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga shot 5-of-18 from long range, struggling to connect from deep.

Stat of the game 2: Turnovers. Gonzaga had 17 turnovers to Illinois' nine. The Bulldogs shot over 60 percent in the first half, but allowed the Illini to hang around by turning the ball over 14 times.

The takeaway: Another day, another win. This time the win means a little something extra. Those wondering if Illinois was for real got an answer Saturday night. Winning on the road against the No. 10 team in the country, Illinois had to battle back from an early deficit and fight through foul trouble down the stretch. Paul played like the star the team needs him to be, and Tracy Abrams and D.J. Richardson were solid in the second half. Defense leaves much room for improvement, as Gonzaga got position down low and scored in the paint all night. The scoring is at an elite level right now. Half-court and transition defense needs to get better if this team is going to reach new heights.

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Fueled by Brandon Paul's 35 points, Illinois beat Gonzaga 85-74 to improve to 10-0 on the season.

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