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NCAA 2015

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Western Carolina vs Illinois

No. 13 Illinois holds off Western Carolina

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- No. 13 Illinois survived a scare from Western Carolina on Tuesday.

The Illini broke a late tie and pulled away for a 72-64 victory against Western Carolina.

The Catamounts forced a 54-54 tie with 5:53 left.

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Guard D.J. Richardson hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for a 62-56 lead for the Illini.

After a Western Carolina turnover, Illini guard Tracy Abrams made two free throws and added a basket on the following possession for a 66-56 lead.

"One area where we did get it done is we were able to win the game because we were able to make big plays," Illinois coach John Groce said.

Guard Brandon Paul led Illinois with 14 points, but was 5 for 15 from the field. Richardson scored 13 points with all of his three baskets coming from behind the 3-point line. Abrams finished with 10 points and three assists.

The Illini (9-0) play at No. 10 Gonzaga on Saturday. It's the Illini's first meeting against a ranked opponent.

"I've been told (Gonzaga coach Mark Few) thinks it's his best team," Groce said. "That's a great environment. It's an exciting challenge, a national TV game against a top 10 team."

The Illini played for the first time in six days after logging eight games early, including a four-game swing through Hawaii.

But the Illini's biggest game to date came against Butler. Illinois beat the unranked Bulldogs for the Maui Invitational title.

Guard Preston Ross led Western Carolina with 17 points. Guard Brandon Boggs added 16 points off the bench. Guard James Sinclair had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Western Carolina (3-6) managed 27 percent shooting while losing 14 turnovers in the first half. The Catamounts kept the game close despite 22 turnovers with 6-of-10 shooting from the 3-point line in the second half.

"I like Illinois' team," Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter said. "They've got a lot of good pieces to the puzzle."

Illinois was 3 of 14 from the field to start the game before the Illini stretched the advantage to 32-22 at halftime on a 15-8 run to end the half.

"You have to have a better start, a better first half," Richardson said. "We always play half a game and have spurts where we play good and spurts where we play bad. We have to be tough. They out-toughed us."

Western Carolina fell to 1-14 all time against teams from the Big Ten Conference after finishing a seven-game road trip.

"I like my basketball team, too," Hunter said. "We're very tired. We played seven straight games all over the place. I've got guys with a lot of heart. They displayed that a year ago."

The game between Illinois and Western Carolina also served as a reunion for Hunter and Illini assistant Dustin Ford, who played for Hunter at Ohio and coached under him at Western Carolina.

Ford worked at Western Carolina for three seasons, concluding in 2008. He then returned to Ohio, where he joined Groce's staff before moving with Groce to Illinois before this season.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Illinois' Tracy Abrams beats Western Carolina's Tawaski King to the hoop for a layup in the first half.  (US Presswire)
Illinois' Tracy Abrams beats Western Carolina's Tawaski King to the hoop for a layup in the first half. (US Presswire)
Scoreboard
Western Carolina (3-6)224264
Illinois #13 (9-0) «324072
WCAR:P. Ross 17 Pts
WCAR:T. Sumler 9 Reb
WCAR:T. Sumler 4 Ast
ILL:B. Paul 14 Pts
ILL:T. Griffey 6 Reb
ILL:T. Abrams 3 Ast

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PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Western CarolinaIllinois
WCAR
James Sinclair
ILL
Brandon Paul
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
13831422
Western Carolina Catamounts
T. Sumler, G403-100-09438
T. King, F403-64-961210
P. Ross, F335-106-751417
J. Sinclair, G304-93-483313
T. Tankelewicz, F70-20-01110
B. Boggs, G365-122-261316
M. Brown, G70-10-01020
R. Harrelson, G40-20-00010
J. Mendenhall, F30-00-01000
K. Hall, FDid Not Play
J. Browning, FDid Not Play
T. Brummitt, FDid Not Play
B. Littlejohn, GDid Not Play
Totals 20-5215-2237111964
 38.5%68.2% 
Illinois Fighting Illini
B. Paul, G355-153-322014
D. Richardson, G343-94-631113
T. Abrams, G304-112-253010
T. Griffey, F232-60-06144
N. Egwu, F-C172-50-04055
S. McLaurin, F252-41-35125
J. Bertrand, G163-50-01137
M. Henry, G-F123-73-52019
D. Langford, G-F51-20-03002
M. Shaw, F31-10-00003
K. Berardini, GDid Not Play
I. Djimde, F-CDid Not Play
M. LaTulip, GDid Not Play
Totals 26-6513-193191672
 40.0%68.4% 
Southern
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Wofford16-228-747
Chattanooga15-322-10112
Mercer12-619-16212
W. Carolina9-915-17221
ETSU8-1016-14192
VMI7-1111-19287
Samford6-1213-19305
Citadel6-1211-19327
UNC-Green.6-1211-22309
Furman5-1311-22293

Big Ten
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Wisconsin16-235-34
Maryland14-428-713
Michigan St.12-627-1123
Iowa12-622-1243
Purdue12-621-1355
Ohio St.11-724-1141
Indiana9-920-1461
Illinois9-919-1473
Michigan8-1016-1680
Minnesota6-1218-1598
Northwestern6-1215-17124
Nebraska5-1313-18158
Penn St.4-1418-16108
Rutgers2-1610-22179
 
Other games
TEX 41 Final
GTOWN 64
SDST 64 Final
MINN 88
SEMO 65 Final
MIZZ 81
WMU 41 Final
MICH 73
LOU 80 Final
CHRL 38
USM 55 Final
ARIZ 63
NCST 69 Final
CONN 65
UNLV 68 Final
PORT 60