No. 10 Illinois vs. Norfolk State final score: Illinois escape upset, 64-54

Joe Robbins

Norfolk State didn't want to go away quietly but the Fighting Illini pulled away just enough to preserve their unbeaten record.

The Illinois Fighting Illini needed most of the game to avoid the upset-minded Norfolk State Spartans, finally pulling away in the waning minutes of the second half to win 64-54.

Just a few days after justifying their top 10 ranking with a win on the road against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the Fighting Illini had a hard time shaking the Spartans to preserve their undefeated record.

Illinois led by three with two minutes left in the second half, but pulled away on free throws and cold shooting by Norfolk State. Norfolk State went the final two minutes with only one field goal - a jumper by Malcom Hawkins with six seconds left.

Illinois only led by three at half as both teams struggled from the field. After scoring 35 points against Gonzaga, Brandon Paul scored just 14 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He wasn't alone in his shooting woes on the Illini starting five - only D.J. Richardson shot above 50 percent. As a team, the Fighting Illini shot 35 percent from the field, 26 percent from three point range and 59.3 percent from the free throw line.

Luckily, Norfolk State had its fair share of troubles too. The Spartans shot 37 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from three point range and 75 percent from the free throw line. Guards Pendarvis Williams and Hawkins shot a combined 6-for-24 in scoring 19 points.

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