CHAMPAIGN – Illinois already has checked off some high-profile causes for celebration in their nonconference schedule.
A Maui Invitational championship and now a nationally televised 75-62 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday night in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge have raised hopes again around Champaign.
Sterling graduate Joseph Bertrand tied Brandon Paul with a team-high 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from long range. He added three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
After trailing 58-54 in the second half, the Illini (8-0) closed the game on a 21-4 run, highlighted by 10 straight points from Bertrand and key buckets from D.J. Richardson.
The Illini pushed the pace against the Yellow Jackets (4-2), shooting 14 of 30 in the first half.
The Illini, who entered the game leading the nation with 10.9 3-pointers per game, hit 14 of their 28 shots beyond the arc.
The Illini fell behind by six points in the first half, but used a late run to end it with a 36-35 lead. Paul hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished the half with 10 points and four assists.
Point guard Tracy Abrams bounced back from a scoreless, turnover-prone outing on Sunday against Gardner-Webb with six of his 14 points and four assists before halftime.
Star of the game: Brandon Paul, Illinois, 15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists
Bertrand watch: 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3, 3 rebounds, assist, steal
Up next: Western Carolina at Illinois, 7 p.m. Tuesday