The Illinois Fighting Illini have still not lost a game under first-year head coach John Groce, but they came closer to losing to the Western Carolina Catamounts on Tuesday night than they likely expected. The No. 13 Illini (9-0) defeated the Catamounts (3-6), 72-64, but weren't able to pull away from a team that they should have handled with ease.
Illinois was led in scoring on the night by guard Brandon Paul, who scored 14 points, though it came on just 5-16 shooting from the field. Right behind him was D.J. Richardson, whose 13 points also came from inefficient 3-9 shooting. Those shooting woes were shared by the entire Illinois team, which shot just 40 percent from the field and 7-24 from three-point range on the night.
Luckily for Illinois, the Catamounts didn't fare much better. They shot 38 percent from the field and 9-21 from three while also going just 68 percent from the free-throw line. The relative equality in shooting numbers was mitigated by Western Carolina turning the ball over -- Illinois managed to take 13 more shots than Western Carolina, which helped push them to victory despite lackluster play.
Illinois will head to Washington next, where they'll visit the Gonzaga Bulldogs at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday on ESPN2.