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NCAAB game of the day: Illinois at Gonzaga

Illinois at Gonzaga (-12)

Illinois stands at 9-0 for the second straight year while outscoring its opponents by an average of 15.3 points, but the 14th-ranked Illini haven’t faced anyone like Gonzaga. Off to the best start in their Division I history, the 10th-ranked Bulldogs improved to 9-0 on Wednesday after Kevin Pangos scored with two seconds left to beat Washington State, 71-69. Illinois is coming off an unimpressive 72-64 win over Western Carolina on Tuesday, when the Illini were outrebounded 41-34. They’ll need a better effort against a Gonzaga team that boasts a rebounding margin of plus-12.7 while shooting a sizzling 53.1 percent. The Bulldogs are 53-5 in non-conference games at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

TV: 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT ILLINOIS (9-0):
The backcourt of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson is being mentioned as one of the best in the country, and for good reason. Paul is averaging 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists while shooting 46 percent, and Richardson is averaging 12.3 points with a team-high 16 steals. The Illini have three seniors in their starting lineup, so they don’t figure to be rattled by a capacity crowd at Gonzaga. However, they’ll need to improve their post defense against the Bulldogs' stellar frontline. The Illini have used the same starting lineup all season, with 6-11 sophomore Nnanna Egwu averaging six points and 4.2 rebounds at center.

ABOUT GONZAGA (9-0): Opponents are shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc against the Bulldogs, who feature a deep lineup with 10 players averaging at least 11 minutes. Senior forward Elias Harris leads the team in scoring (16.8) and rebounding (8.1), and 7-foot forward Kelly Olynyk is averaging 13.8 points and seven boards. Olynyk came off the bench to score all of his 22 points in the second half against Washington State. Pangos hit the game-winner against the Cougars, but was only 2-for-12 from the field. The senior point guard is averaging 10.6 points and 3.9 assists.

TRENDS:


* Fighting Illini are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Bulldogs are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 home games.
* Fighting Illini are 1-9 ATS in their last 10 road games.
* Fighting Illini are 0-5 ATS in their last five Saturday games.

TIP-INS:


1. John Groce is the first coach to start his Illinois career 9-0 in over 100 years.

2. Gonzaga 7-1 freshman C Przemek Karnowski is averaging 9.3 points and 3.8 rebounds off the bench.

3. Illinois is making an astounding 10.8 3-point field goals per game.

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