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Illini overcome shooting woes to edge Bonnies

Dec 8, 2011 - 4:41 AM Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - Brandon Paul dropped 17 points to go with five assists as the 24th-ranked Fighting Illini squeezed past St. Bonaventure, 48-43 on Wednesday.

D.J. Richardson donated 11 points in the win and Meyers Leonard added nine points and eight rebounds for Illinois (9-0), which remained perfect on the young season.

Andrew Nicholson paced the Bonnies (3-4) with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Demitrius Conger and Matthew Wright contributed six points apiece. St. Bonaventure has lost three of its last four contests.

With the game knotted at 43, Leonard sank a jumper with 58 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, St. Bonaventure turned the ball over and were forced to foul. Paul made 1-of-2 free throws to push out to a three point edge.

Nicholson missed a three pointer with 18 seconds to play and Illinois held on for the victory.

Leading by a point early, 10-9, Illinois used a 7-0 spurt to jump out to a 17-9 lead with 13:57 remaining in the opening half. Chris Johnson sank a three-pointer to stop the run and pull the Bonnies within five, 17-12.

St. Bonaventure scored the next four points to get within a point, and the first half was back-and-forth the rest of the way. The Bonnies held a slim 26-24 lead at the break.

The Bonnies scored the first five points of the second half to push out to a 31-24 edge, but Tyler Griffey responded with a three-pointer for Illinois to make it 31-27 with 16:36 to play.

St. Bonaventure then outscored the Illini 8-3 over the next nine-plus minutes to take a 39-30 lead with 5:22 left in regulation.

The Illini scored the next five points to get within four, 39-35, and Paul's three-point play with 2:38 remaining knotted things at 41-all.

Game Notes

Wednesday marked the first-ever meeting between the two programs...At 9-0, Illinois is off to its best start since 2005-06...Illinois has won 24 consecutive non-conference games at home...Illinois shot only 32 percent from the floor, while the Bonnies shot 35 percent...Illinois netted 18 points off 18 St. Bonaventure turnovers...The Bonnies outrebounded Illinois, 36-26.