Zags and Illini square off in Champaign
Champaign, IL – The 19th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs continue an conference action at the Assembly Center in Champaign.
Mark Few's Bulldogs are undefeated on the season and improved to 5-0 with an impressive 73-53 rout of Notre Dame earlier in the week. Following this contest, the Zags will return home to play host to Michigan State.
Bruce Weber's Illini are also undefeated on the young campaign, moving to 7-0 with a 71-62 road win at Maryland as part of this week's Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The team is off to a 7-0 start for the first time since the 2006-7 season. The victory over the Terrapins was Weber's 200th with the program.
This is the fifth all-time meeting between these two teams. Illinois has won three of the previous four, including a 73-61 win in Seattle last year.
Robert Sacre and David Stockton led the way with 15 points each, as Gonzaga posted a 20-point win over the Fighting Irish this week. Kevin Pangos added 12 points to the cause, while Elia Harris had a big game down low with 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Bulldogs are shooting a modest .435 from the floor this year, but are still averaging an impressive 78.0 ppg. Sacre and Harris form a solid frontcourt duo. Sacre paces the team in scoring at 16.6 ppg and is grabbing 8.2 rpg. Harris adds 11.8 ppg, while leading Gonzaga at 8.8 rpg. Pangos has really provided great balance in the backcourt. The freshman sniper is averaging 15.0 ppg and is shooting 51.7 percent from behind the arc (15- of-29).
Illinois relies on tough defense to win games. The team ranks among the nation's best in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, limiting foes to just 54.9 ppg, on .357 shooting. The Illini do have some scoring options at the other end, led by Sam Manicalco's 13.3 ppg. D.J. Richardson adds to the perimeter depth with 12.4 ppg, while Meyers Leonard is the top option up front, as the seven-footer nets 12.3 ppg, while grabbing a team-high 6.7 rpg. In the win over Maryland, Maniscalco showed his scoring prowess, hitting five three-pointers en route to 24-point eruption. Brandon Paul poured in 17 points in support, while Leonard finished with 12.