SEATTLE – It reminded Illinois men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber of a stretch against Michigan State during the 2004-05 season when the Fighting Illini scored on 12 straight possessions.
It reminded several of the Gonzaga Bulldogs of the Kansas State game Nov. 22, not exactly a warm and fuzzy memory.
Two 3-pointers to close the first half, 9 of 11 on 3s to open the second half. That’s 11 3s in an 11-minute, 10-second span and the 20th-ranked Illini were on their way to a 73-61 victory over the Bulldogs in the eighth annual Battle in Seattle in front of 14,789 at KeyArena.
“People still talk about that (segment of the Michigan State game), how efficient we were,” Weber said. “Today wasn’t quite that good, but it was sure a good run of good basketball. Making reads and hitting the open shot.”
Emphasis on open.
The demise for Gonzaga (4-3), which dropped to 0-3 against ranked teams, started late in the first half. GU’s Elias Harris had just drawn a charging foul on standout point guard Demetri McCamey, who went to the bench for the final 5:28 with his team trailing 22-20. Seconds later, Harris, who didn’t start because of a sore Achilles tendon, had a put-back dunk to bump the lead to four.
Instead of pulling away with Illinois’ best player on the bench, the Zags went into halftime down 34-28 – the last six points coming on a pair of Brandon Paul 3-pointers. He had 10 of his 12 points in the last 3:54 of the half.
Mike Tisdale, a 7-foot-1 center who was just 2 of 7 on 3s entering the game, popped in a 3 to open the second half, then another. Then it was D.J. Richardson’s turn, Tisdale’s and Bill Cole for two in a row, followed by McCamey, Richardson and McCamey again. Illinois led 65-47.
“We just have to learn and learn how to play against the 3,” said Bulldogs center Rob Sacre, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. “Kansas State killed us with the 3 and this team killed us with the 3.”
K-State made 12 of 26 beyond the arc. Illinois (8-1) finished 12 of 23.
“We had four guys on the same page and one not on the same page on a couple of those. Then they got on a roll and we again didn’t adjust,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We used timeouts and went zone and we had four on the same page and one not quite on the same page. That’s a sign of not having everybody to practice and having a really young team – the conviction to stick with the game plan.”
Of Tisdale’s 3s, Few said, “It was a double-high ball screen which you really don’t see much where the 5-man (Tisdale) pops out. We just weren’t quite executing the show and switch part.”
GU had stretches where it struggled to score. Richardson, with a lot of help from his teammates, clamped down on Gray, who was limited to 10 points, nearly 12 less than his average.
Gray scored GU’s opening basket in the first minute but didn’t have another field goal until he scored with 11:23 left in the second half.
Roughly at that point, the Zags began switching on every ball screen and slowed Illinois’ 3-point barrage. GU rallied within 10, but the damage had been done.
Harris was 6 of 9 from the field for 12 first-half points, but he missed all three of his shots in the second half.
The Bulldogs missed their first nine 3-point attempts before Kelly Olynyk connected with 11:52 remaining. GU made just 40.7 percent of its shots, 3 of 16 3s, and 16 offensive boards accounted for just 13 second-chance points.
(20) Illinois 73, Gonzaga 61
Percentages: FG .444, FT .813. 3-Point Goals: 12-23, .522 (Tisdale 3-5, McCamey 3-5, Paul 2-3, Cole 2-4, Richardson 2-5, Richmond 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 6 (Davis 2, Richmond, Paul, Cole, Tisdale). Turnovers: 6 (Richmond 3, McCamey 2, Davis). Steals: 4 (Richmond 2, Cole, Richardson). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .407, FT .625. 3-Point Goals: 3-16, .188 (Olynyk 1-2, Arop 1-3, Gray 1-4, Carter 0-1, Monninghoff 0-3, Harris 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 1 (Sacre). Turnovers: 11 (Gray 2, Sacre 2, Goodson 2, Olynyk 2, Harris, Stockton, Monninghoff). Steals: 0 Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime—Illinois 34-28. A—14,789.