Northwestern, 68, No. 23 Illinois, 54

USA TODAY Sports

In a weird twist, Northwestern won a basketball game against a ranked team. It's both cooler and less cool that it was a dying Illinois team.

Northwestern won!

Northwestern won a Big Ten game!

Northwestern won a Big Ten game against a team we really don't like!

Northwestern won a Big Ten game against a ranked team that we really don't like!

Northwestern won a road Big Ten game against a ranked team that we really don't like! WTF?

Things started well for Northwestern: they were off to a 10-3 start, and hit their first four threes - five of six. Meanwhile, Illinois couldn't hit anything. As everybody writes about Illinois, they're a team that takes a lot of threes and is wishy-washy with em. Tonight, they were, uh, washy to start. That led to a 36-21 lead for NU at the half. No lead is unassailable, but as Northwestern found out the other night: if you're up (DOUBLE DIGIT NUMBER) against a team that scored (LIKE 20 POINTS) in a half, it's a lead you should be able to hold.

In the second half, Northwestern started to come apart. Lots of turnovers, not that many hit shots. At one point, they were 3-for-9 with eight turnovers - almost as many turnovers as shot attempts - but the Illini were bricking too. It's quite simple though: Northwestern wanted to hold the ball 35 seconds, but couldn't hold on to it long enough. A scoreless stretch went at least four minutes, until Illinois started fouling. With FOUR AND A HALF MINUTES LEFT.

Yes, they decided they'd rather watch NU attempt to make free throws than have 30 seconds of clock go off.

But somehow, Northwestern held on. Jared Swopshire hit a big and-one, and the Cats held on.

For the second straight year, Reggie Hearn led the way at Illinois, finishing with 18 points.

I wouldn't read too much into it: this is basketball. Illinois missed their shots, Northwestern hit theirs. 8-for-16 from deep for Northwestern, 3-for-a lot for Illinois. Sure, the Illini outrebounded Northwestern by a ton, forced a bunch of turnovers, and didn't foul a bunch before they decided to do so intentionally. But that didn't matter, as Northwestern got a win.

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