No. 13 Illinois went into a hostile environment Saturday night to play No. 10 Gonzaga and walked away with its biggest victory of the young season, winning, 85-74.
"The Kennel," as the Gonzaga home court is known, was filled to capacity and the fans were rowdy. The Bulldogs fed off of the encouragement early, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. But the Illini responded with resiliency as they have all season. Maui Invitational MVP Brandon Paul knocked down a three-pointer to start the comeback effort and by halftime, the Fighting Illini had tied the game, 41-41.
In the second half, Paul's phenomenal performance continued, as he did everything needed to knock off the Illini's top ten opponent. He finished the game with 35 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including a crossover, step-back three-pointer to put the game away with just over a minute to play. D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams contributed to the winning effort with 11 and 14 points, respectively. Joseph Bertrand scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting off the bench.
The win moves Illinois to 10-0 on the season. The Illini now return home to face Norfolk State on Tuesday. Gonzaga, who drops to 9-1 with the loss, will look to get back in the win column against Kansas State on Dec. 15.