Illinois men’s basketball upsets Northwestern in first road Big Ten win

Illinois+Malcolm+Hill+%2821%29+shoots+a+three+during+the+game+against+Minnesota+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Saturday%2C+February+4.+The+Illini+lost+68-59.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (21) shoots a three during the game against Minnesota at State Farm Center on Saturday, February 4. The Illini lost 68-59.

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

Illinois flipped the script on its Big Ten season Tuesday at Northwestern, picking up the it’s first road win of the conference season 68-61.

The Illini jumped out to a quick lead with a 17-2 run midway through the first half, but allowed Northwestern to climb back into a tie at halftime 28-28.

Illinois’ freshmen sparked the offense in the first half, with point guard Te’Jon Lucas running the show. Lucas played 16 first-half minutes, tallying seven points and four assists, including three straight assists midway through the half. Along with Lucas, redshirt-freshman Kipper Nichols provided a well-needed boost to the offense, adding eight points and three boards to the Illini cause.

The second half swayed back-and-forth, with the Illini holding a one-possession lead the majority of the half, but the scored evened up with under two minutes to play. A one-handed bullet pass from Jalen Coleman-Lands to Lucas gave Illinois a two-point lead, and a follow up shot in the lane by Michael Finke on the next possession stretched it to four.

From there, Illinois shut the door on the defensive end and at the free throw line.

Lucas finished with 11 points and six assists, marking his career high for points in a game. Nichols cooled off and added only one point, bringing his tally to nine on the night.

Finke poured in 11 points in the second half, including 3-of-5 from three, all coming in the second half.    

Although a non-factor in the game, a surprise move was Aaron Jordan getting the start for Illinois. Jordan played four minutes to open the game, then spent the rest of the time on the bench. Seniors Jaylon Tate and Michael Thorne Jr. did not play at all.

Although nearly a no-show on the stat sheet in the first half, Illini star Malcolm Hill came on in the second half. Hill finished with 14 points in 36 minutes and did some work on the glass, grabbing nine for Illinois.

Illinois will next face Penn State on Saturday in Champaign.

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