Illinois tops DePaul to stay unbeaten
In the first meeting since 1957 between the state’s most-storied programs, Illinois outlasted DePaul 82-73 in a foul-filled Gavitt Tipoff Games clash Friday night in Champaign, Ill.
Freshman guard Mark Smith scored a career-high 21 points for Illinois (3-0) while sophomore forward Kipper Nichols contributed a career-high 16 points off the bench.
Freshman point guard Justin Roberts delivered a career-high 19 points, five assists and five rebounds for DePaul (1-2) after starting point guard Devin Gage suffered an ankle injury early in the second half. Junior forward Max Strus added 15 points.
Illinois led for the final 30 minutes and pushed its margin to 47-36 on Smith’s 3-pointer with 17:40 to play, but DePaul kept drawing fouls and drawing closer. When Roberts picked Te’Jon Lucas’ pocket and flew in for a layup, the Blue Demons pulled within 49-47 and forced the Illini to call a timeout with 13:50 to go.
DePaul was never able to get closer, though the visitors pulled within a basket a few more times as foul problems forced both coaches to juggle lineups on the fly.
DePaul senior center Marin Maric, who scored all 12 of his points during a dominant first half, picked up his fourth foul with 12:50 to play and left the game. He returned briefly, but fouled out with 6:10 to go while trying to draw a charge.
Illinois junior forward Leron Black, who led the team in scoring the last time out, fouled out in just 17 minutes.
The Illini finished with 27 fouls while DePaul was whistled for 32.