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Illini survive at Northwestern

Illinois’s record against Northwestern belies the fact that playing at Welsh Ryan Arena has been rough in recent years. At halftime of last night’s game the announcers reminded viewers just how rough when they brought up last year’s performance, in which Illinois scored just 15 points in the first half.

That wasn’t how things would shake out on Wednesday, as Kendrick Nunn wowed in a career-best performance, scoring 25 in a 72-67 win. The sophomore from Chicago gave the kind of performance he has always seemed capable, and at the right time, as leading scorer Malcolm Hill finished with just 10 points (3-9 on field goals). Aaron Cosby also had his best game with the Illini, scoring 19.

Most important in the victory, though, was Illinois’s ball control. The team turned the ball over only 3 times against the Wildcats, and all were from offensive fouls. Not once in 40 minutes did Illinois throw the ball away.

“I thought it was the smartest that we’ve played all year,” Groce said after the game. “That’s the best we’ve played on offense all year.”

Illinois move to 2-3 in conference play (12-6 overall), which is a pretty good place to be considering the opposition. The next few games (Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers) also represent the bottom of the standings (except Indiana), which could help the Illini as they seek a Tourney berth.

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