Unbeaten Illinois beat 19th-ranked Gonzaga 82-75. Elias Harris led the Zags (5-1) with 19 points and eight rebounds.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — With 4:13 left to play Saturday, Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre made a short jump shot that left the Zags seven points behind Illinois — and gave the 7-foot center a sweet dose of relief.
Sacre, who hadn’t scored a point since late in the first half, punched the air emphatically.
His relief lasted less than a minute, drained away by a quick basket by Illini center Meyers Leonard and then a foul — Sacre’s fifth — that all but locked up an 82-75 victory for Illinois.
It was the first loss of the season for 19th-ranked Gonzaga (5-1).
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Illinois (8-0) was listed as a two-point favorite in the nonconference game by Nevada oddsmakers.
“Great game, great energy,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Both teams played hard, but I thought Illinois did a nice job stepping up and making plays.”
Sacre picked up all five of his fouls in the second half, frustrated by a rotating cast of Illini big men.
“They were more aggressive in the second half. That’s what always happens when you’re more aggressive — you’re going to get more calls,” said Sacre, praising in particular 7-1 sophomore Leonard.
Leonard had a game-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting.
Sacre had 14 points with 4:22 left in the first half and finished with 16.
Of the foul that sent Sacre to the bench for good, Leonard said, “He just kind of threw his body into me and kind of gave me a forearm a little bit.”
D.J. Richardson scored 19 points for Illinois, while Brandon Paul added 13.
Elias Harris led the Zags with 19 points and had a game-high eight rebounds. Kevin Pangos added 11 points.
After Sacre went cold, the Illini went on a 7-0 run early in the second half that gave them breathing room and snapped what had been a 38-38 tie.
Zags freshman Gary Bell Jr., a graduate of Kentridge High School in Kent, left the game late with a right-knee injury and didn’t return.
“I twisted it a little bit, but it’s fine,” said Bell, who scored nine points. “It bugged me for a while. But after I iced it, it feels a lot better.”
Gonzaga’s David Stockton had nine points, three steals and four turnovers.
“We, especially me, had a couple of turnovers that really took the wind out of our sails,” Stockton said.