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.
Kelly Olynyk led the way for Gonzaga, scoring 16 points on only nine shots and grabbing eight rebounds as well. Elias Harris scored 15 points.
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.