A season-best Assembly Hall crowd of 15,029 watched the Illini (12-0) hand the Colonels (9-1) their first loss of the season thanks to 17 points from Brandon Paul and 13 second-half points from Tracy Abrams.
It was over when: Tyler Griffey drained a 3 to stretch the lead to 61-48 with 2:30 to play. The Colonels didn't go away easily, hitting two 3s, but the game was essentially out of reach after Griffey's shot.
Player of the game: Abrams. After a scoreless start to the game, the sophomore point guard notched all 13 of his points in the second half. An 18-foot step back jumper gave the Illini a 14-point lead -- which provided them with command of the game for good. He added five rebounds, three steals and two assists. On the negative side, he did have five turnovers and struggled with foul trouble at the beginning of the game.
Stat of the game: Turnovers. Illinois tied it's season high with 20 turnovers, including five apiece from Abrams and Paul. Eastern Kentucky scored 17 points off the Illini's mistakes.
Stat of the game 2: Rebounding. The Illini pulled down nearly double the rebounds of their counterparts, 42-23. That figure includes 10 offensive boards, which led to 10 points. Paul paced the team with nine rebounds. Myke Henry, Abrams and Tyler Griffey each had five.
Stat of the game 3: Second half shooting. Illinois shot nearly 67 percent (14-21) in the second half, scoring 41 points in the process. That came after a poor effort in the opening half, which included 2-of-13 from the 3-point line.
Stat of the game 4: Blocks. The Illini had a season-high nine blocks, including four from Nnanna Egwu.
"I thought Nnanna Egwu was big on the defensive end," coach John Groce said.
The takeaway: Another day, another win. The Illini never trailed in this one, but didn't control the action outright, either. Eastern Kentucky kept it close with forcing turnovers and some timely shooting. Once again, Illinois started both halves strong, but lagged in the middle of each period. In another strong run down the stretch, a game that could have gone down to the wire was put of question with around five minutes to go. Here the Illini stand, undefeated heading into the big rivalry matchup with No. 12 Missouri. Does it get any better than this? A win in St. Louis says yes.