CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Kendrick Nunn scored 27 points and Michael Finke added 24 to help Illinois survive Western Carolina Saturday, 80-68.
Illinois (4-5) pulled away late. But the game was tied as late as the 7:58 mark in the second half when Elijah Pughsley hit a 3-pointer to make the score 59-59.
But Illinois answered with a pair of baskets by Nunn. The second was a powerful dunk that gave Illinois a 63-59 edge with 7:18 left. Western Carolina never got any closer.
While Finke, a freshman, and Nunn both had career highs for Illinois, their teammates were quiet. The rest of the Illini combined for 29 points.
Mike Brown led Western Carolina (3-5) with 23 points. Pughsley finished with 15, all on 3-pointers. He was 5 of 10 from behind the arc.
The game was sloppy. Western Carolina turned the ball over 19 times and the Illini 16.
And after coming off a loss Wednesday to Notre Dame, Saturday's game was too close for comfort much of the afternoon for Illinois.
Early in the second half, Western Carolina used an 11-0 run to turn what had been a comfortable lead for Illinois into a tie game.
Jaylon Tate fouled Justin Browning with 12:39 to play. Browning sank both free throws, and the State Farm Center grew uncomfortably quiet with the game tied 50-50.
Only a layup from Malcolm Hill, who sat on the bench for the opening seven minutes of the second half, ended the run and put the Illini back up by two.
But after the Illini stretched their lead to seven at 57-50, Western Carolina came right back, finally tying it again on Pughsley's 3.
Nunn is typically a starter but came off the bench Saturday.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts were 7 of 7 from the free-throw line in the second half and 15 of 18 for the game, but they struggled to attack Illinoi inside in the second half Saturday and get to the line. Western Carolina had just four points in the paint in the second half.
Illinois: Illinois' trouble defending the 3-pointer was apparent again Saturday. Notre Dame was 10 of 20 from 3-point range in Illinois' 84-79 loss to the Fighting Irish on Wednesday. The Catamounts, who came into the game hitting just 29.5 percent of their 3-pointers, were 11-24 on Saturday for 45.8 percent.
Western Carolina plays at Davidson on Saturday.
Illinois hosts Yale Wednesday.