Richardson leads No. 13 Illinois past Western Carolina
Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - D.J. Richardson scored 13 points and keyed a late Illinois run with a pair of 3-pointers, as the 13th-ranked Fighting Illini edged upset-minded Western Carolina, 72-64, at Assembly Hall.
Illinois (9-0), perhaps looking ahead to a meeting with No. 10 Gonzaga on Saturday, needed a 12-2 run in the final stages to put away the Catamounts, who were trying for their first-ever win against a ranked opponent.
Brandon Paul needed 15 shots to total 14 points, while Tracy Abrams added 10 points for the Illini, who shot just 7-of-24 from the perimeter.
Preston Ross and Brandon Boggs netted 17 and 16 points, respectively, for Western Carolina (3-6), which is 0-37 all-time against top-25 foes.
The Catamounts never led, thanks in part to shooting 27 percent from the floor and committing 14 turnovers in the first half. They trailed, 32-22, at the break, but got hot and pulled even when Ross converted a three-point play for a 40-40 deadlock 6 1/2 minutes into the second half.
Eleven minutes later, Nnanna Egwu broke a tie game with a dunk, sparking Illinois' clinching flurry. Richardson hit from long range on consecutive possessions, and Abrams sank a fadeaway for a 66-56 cushion with 2:24 on the clock.
The closest the visitors got from there was six.
A Richardson 3-pointer midway through the opening half gave Illinois a 17-7 lead, and it remained a 10-point margin at the intermission.
Illinois owns a 20-game non-conference home winning streak ... The Illini scored 20 more points in the paint, 34-14 ... Illinois scored 29 points off 22 turnovers ... Western Carolina is 1-14 all-time against current members of the Big Ten ... The Catamounts play will play just their second home game of the season on Saturday when they host Appalachian State.
12/04 22:44:27 ET