It was over when: Sophomore Tracy Abrams scored six straight points, hitting two free throws and two layups, to extend the lead to 10 points with less than minute left to finish off the Catamounts.
Player of the game: D.J. Richardson. The senior guard scored 10 of his 13 points over the course of the final five minutes. The game was in question until Richardson hit two threes and four free throws, giving the Illini a lead they would not give back. Richardson finished with three rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes of play.
Unsung hero:Sam McLaurin. The senior big man played 25 minutes, including 14 in the first half due to Nnanna Egwu's foul trouble. McLaurin had four offensive rebounds, two steals and a block. "I thought McLaurin was active tonight," coach John Groce said. "He was active on the glass and active defensively."
Unsung hero 2: Abrams. He struggled in the first half, shooting 1-for-8 from the field and providing a single assist. In the second, Abrams didn't hang his head. Instead, he hit all three of his shots, sank two free throws and had two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Stat of the game: Turnovers. Illinois forced 22 Western Carolina turnovers while giving away only 11. The Illini scored 29 points off of the Catamounts giveaways.
Stat of the game 2: Rebounding. Western Carolina took it to Illinois on the glass, winning the rebound margin 41-34. Both teams grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, but Illinois scored eight more second chance points (22-14).
The takeaway: Another day, another win. The positive mind will see a resilient-type of win and an undefeated record. The pessimistic types will note the inconsistent play and the fact the game was tied with less than six minutes to play. Western Carolina isn't exactly a pushover, but Illinois didn't play it's best ball Tuesday. This weekend's matchup with Gonzaga will provide a good measuring stick -- is this team for real? We'll know more after the trip to Spokane.