Brandon Paul scored 14 points and No. 13 Illinois earned a 72-64 win over Western Carolina on Tuesday.
Western Carolina tied the game at 54-54 with 5:53 left.
Illinois guard D.J. Richardson hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for a 62-56 lead. Richardson finished with 13 points.
After a Western Carolina turnover, Illini guard Tracy Abrams made two free throws and a basket on the following possession for a 66-56 lead.
Guard Preston Ross paced the Catamounts (3-6) with 17 points. James Sinclair added 13 points.
The Illini (9-0) play at No. 10 Gonzaga on Saturday.
Illinois was 3 of 14 from the field to start the game, but the Illini stretched the lead to 32-22 at halftime with a 15-8 run to end the half.