Spokane, WA, United States (4E Sports) – Senior guard Brandon Paul scored 35 points, including five three-pointers, as No. 13 Illinois remained unbeaten with an 85-74 upset win over No. 10 Gonzaga Saturday at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Paul made 10 of 16 attempts from the field and 10 of 11 tries from the foul line while fellow guards Tracy Abrams and D.J. Richardson added 14 and 11 points each as the Fighting Illini improved to 10-0.
Kelly Olynyk fired 16 points to lead three other scorers in double digits for Gonzaga, who dropped to 9-1.
Elias Harris added 15, Gary Bell Jr. had 12 and Kevin Pangos scored 10 for the Bulldogs, who led by 11 points, 31-20, in the first half before the Fighting Illini tied the count at 41 at the break.
“I thought our toughness and togetherness was exemplary,” said John Groce, who became the first coach to start his Illinois career 10-0 in over 100 years.
The only Illinois coach to get off to a better start was Fletcher Lane, who won his first 12 games at Illinois (1907-08), although 11 of those 12 victories came against club teams.
In the second half, the Fighting Illini grabbed a 59-51 lead behind Myke Henry’s three-pointer as the Bulldogs’ shooting suddenly went cold after making 60 percent of their attempts in the opening half.
Olynyk and Bell buried consecutive baskets to bring the Bulldogs within 68-64 but Paul retaliated with two baskets of his own for a 73-64 lead.
Pangos sank two foul shots to bring Gonzaga within 75-71, with three minutes left before Paul completed a three-point play and Tracy Abrams sank two foul shots to put the game away.