Illinois fights off pesky Coppin State with late run

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois bounced back from one of its worst shooting performances of the season with one of its best

D.J. Richardson scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures and the Illini (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) beat Coppin State 80-63 on Sunday night.

After failing to get any sort of offensive rhythm in a narrow win against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, Illinois shot 56 percent from the floor against Coppin State's zone defense, including a season-best 10 three-pointers.

"(We) just shot the ball and just had to bounce back from the last game," Richardson said. "We needed to bounce back and not have a game like we did against St. Bonaventure."

Illinois (10-0) hung on to remain one of nine undefeated teams in the nation despite a second-half surge from the Eagles.

After Illinois jumped out to a 17-point lead in the opening minutes of the second half, Coppin State went on a 20-5 run to cut the lead to 59-57. Illinois responded with a 13-3 burst after Illinois center Meyers Leonard and Coppin State guard Taariq Cephas both received technical fouls when the two got tangled up and had to be separated.

Following the pair of technicals, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber switched to a four-guard rotation alongside Leonard, and the group turned to Leonard to provide enough offense down the stretch.

"I think our guys are smart enough at that point of the game to know where the ball needs to go," Weber said.

Tony Gallo scored 21 points for Coppin State (3-5), which also made 10 3-pointers.

"I don't think the score is indicative of the game," Weber said. "The finish at the half wasn't the best, and then we couldn't really get control of the game."

Leonard had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double, while guards Sam Maniscalco and Brandon Paul each scored 12 points.

"We went zone to basically try and stay away from Meyers Leonard hurting us," Coppin State head coach Ron Mitchell said. "He's 7-1 and I have a midget squad. I have to try and do the best I can with what I have."

Weber said officials warned the coaches before the game about being extra careful with incidents on the court after the fight between Xavier and Cincinnati players on Saturday, which led to the quick technicals for Leonard and Cephals.

"They weren't going to have any trouble," Weber said. "I don't think Meyers said anything but he made some faces. Meyers just needs to hold his cool."

Leonard credited Maniscalco with pulling him aside to calm him down after getting the technical.

"In a big game, something crazy could have happened," Leonard said. "I just need to keep my head on straight."

The starting backcourt trio of Maniscalco, Paul and Richardson combined for nine of Illinois' 10 3-pointers, most of which came against Coppin State's zone defense.

"They did a tremendous job of getting the people they wanted to shoot the basketball," Mitchell said. "If I had to choose anybody to shoot those balls from the outside, it was them."

Maniscalco had five assists and no turnovers, while the rest of the team had 21 assists and nine turnovers.

Weber said he expected the tough matchup from the road-tested Eagles, who have already played at No. 9 Connecticut, Purdue and Oklahoma.

"It was a little scary there for a while, and that's what we talked about," Weber said. "They were going to be ready to play. They've been to a lot of places and aren't going to back down to anyone."

The 10 victories to start the season marks the best opening for an Illini team since 2005, and it is the fourth-longest winning streak for Illinois under Weber.

"I told them I was proud of them," Weber said. "We're 10-0, but we still haven't played well. We have a long way to go."

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