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Northwestern beats Illinois in sloppy game, 72-68

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The Illini opened Big Ten play with a loss.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

First Half

Illinois came out strong in the first half. Illinois made Northwestern uncomfortable by making them play at a faster pace. The Illini pushed their lead to 23-15 halfway through the first with balanced scoring. Mark Alstork led all Illini scorers with eight first-half points, while Leron Black and Aaron Jordan both had seven.

There were early foul issues for both team. Mark Smith had to sit for most of the first half after two early fouls.

Northwestern’s best player Vic Law picked up his third foul after scoring 9 first half points, and he was forced to sit out the last seven minutes.

Illinois’ sloppy play returned late in the first half. The Illini committed eleven first-half turnovers, which Northwestern scored 11 points off of. Paired with an extremely tight game call by the officials which saw twenty-six fouls whistled for allowed Northwestern to climb back into the game as the halftime buzzer rang.

Illinois led 36-32 at the half.

Second Half

Northwestern started the half on a 7-0 run. Illinois struggled against the zone.

Te’Jon Lucas got the Illini the lead back, 40-39, with a Eurostep.

Illinois and Northwestern continued going back-and-forth the entire second half, essentially within one possession the entire time.

Illinois cleaned up its foul issue, but Northwestern put Illinois in the bonus with more than seven minutes to go.

The first two-possession lead for either team since 13 seconds into the first half was Illinois leading 55-51 with 7:06 left.

Neither seemed to want to win, and Northwestern turned it over three times in the final minutes of the game, but Illinois was unable take advantage.

Overtime

Vic Law, before fouling out early in the overtime period, and Leron Black started the extra frame getting in a scuffle, leading to matching technicals.

Michael Finke hit 1-of-2 from the line to give Illinois the 64-63 lead, but a Northwestern three-pointer gave the Wildcats the two-point lead.

Te’Jon Lucas then took over the game, missing two free throws for Illinois, but hitting a jumper to tie the game at 68.

Scottie Lindsay hit a pair at the line for Northwestern, and the Wildcats were up by two. Lucas on offense for Illinois took it to the rim by himself and was blocked by Derek Pardon, forcing Illinois to foul with 2.1 seconds left.

Two more free throws won it for Northwestern, 72-68.

What Comes Next

Illinois will be back in action on Sunday night at State Farm Center as they play host to the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland dropped its first conference game to Purdue at home, 80-75, earlier Friday night.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. CT and the game will again be aired on BTN.