Struggling Illinois pulls off a surprise win at Northwestern

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Illinois defeated Northwestern 68-61 in Evanston on February 7th.

EVANSTON –  In the long history of the two in-state, Big Ten rivals, Northwestern typically is the one trying to pull off the upset.

A great season by the Wildcats, however, turned the hosts at Welsh-Ryan Arena into favorites on Tuesday night against an Illinois team struggling in the middle of the conference season.

Chris Collins’ squad came in with a 7-3 record in the Big Ten while John Groce’s Illini was nearly the opposite at 3-8.Illinois, in fact, had yet to win a road game in the new year.

But the visitors enjoyed their unique role as underdogs against Northwestern on the road and turned the tide for at least one night. Strong defensive play and an off night for the Wildcats shooters helped the Illini to a 68-61 victory on Tuesday night.

Groce’s squad saved their best play for late, outscoring the Wildcats’ 7-0 in the final 1:57 of the game to improve to 14-11 overall on the season. Meanwhile Northwestern, who is vying for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, saw their resume take a hit as they fell to 18-6 on the season.