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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Meyers Leonard scored 21 points and helped Illinois hold No. 19 Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre to two second-half points Saturday in an 82-75 upset.
D.J. Richardson added 19 points for undefeated Illinois (8-0). He hit two free throws and a three-pointer that with 5:35 to play put Illinois up 67-60.
Sacre fouled out two minutes later. He finished with 16 points. But he went scoreless for more than 20 minutes. Elias Harris led Gonzaga (5-1) with 19 points.
Brandon Paul scored 13 for Illinois.
Illinois rotated its big men — the 7-1 Leonard, 6-8 Tyler Griffey and freshmen 6-8 Ibby Djimde and 6-11 Nnanna Egwu — on Sacre.
Early on the 7-foot Gonzaga center had his way, scoring 14 first-half points and keeping the Bulldogs close through the first half.
But after a basket with 4:22 to play in the first half, Sacre went cold, frustrated by the rotating cast of Illini around him.
With Sacre invisible, the Illini went on a 7-0 run early in the second half.
Griffey capped it with a short jumper with 15:57 left in the game for a 45-38 lead.
Ten minutes later it was Richardson’s turn.
First he took the ball on the break after a turnover, and drove straight toward the basket and Sacre. The ball didn’t drop, but Sacre fouled Richardson — sending Sacre to the bench with his fourth and Richardson to the line. He hit both free throws for a 64-58 lead with 6:47 to play.
Just over a minute later, Richardson buried the 3-pointer that gave the Illini a 67-60 lead.
Sacre finally found his touch again, hitting a short jumper and pumping his fist in relief as Gonzaga closed to seven at 69-62, but that relief was short lived.
On the next possession Leonard quickly hit a jump shot that erased Sacre’s two points and kept the lead at 71-62.
Leonard, with 3:38 left in the game, then drew a charge from Sacre and the packed Assembly Hall erupted as Sacre walked to the bench.
Illinois rode the momentum of that loud home crowd and carried a lead through much of the first half. And even a stretch that looked ripe for an Illini meltdown ended with Illinois in front by eight.
Leonard, Egwu and Griffey all drew their second fouls in a short stretch and, with just under nine minutes to play, all headed to the bench. Leonard and Griffey stayed there the rest of the half.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 26 on a jumper by with 7:05 to play, and looked ready to run past an Illini lineup that included three freshman and no one over 6-8.
But juniors Richardson and Paul answered for Illinois.
First Richardson hit a three that fired up the crowd to give Illinois a 29-26 lead. Then Paul turned David Stockton’s turnover into a basket, followed quickly by another 3 by Richardson, and Illinois was up 34-26 with 6:03 left in the half.
The Illini led 38-36 at the half, the first game this season the Bulldogs have trailed at halftime.
Gary Bell Jr. left the game late with what Gonzaga coach Mark Few said appeared to be a twisted knee. He didn’t return.
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