EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Alan Griffin set career highs with 24 points and six 3-pointers, Ayo Dosunmu scored 21 and Illinois beat struggling Northwestern 74-66 on Thursday night.
The Illini (19-9, 11-6 Big Ten) moved into a tie for second place in the Big Ten behind Maryland. They took the lead with a big run in the first half and held off last-place Northwestern (6-21, 1-16) down the stretch to win their third straight since a four-game slide that knocked them out of the Top 25.
The Wildcats lost their 12th straight, their worst skid since they dropped 12 in a row during the 1999-2000 season.
Griffin played 21 minutes and made 6 of 8 from beyond the arc, including three during a three-minute stretch in the second half to help Illinois build a 16-point lead. The sophomore is averaging 13 points while making 16 of 30 3-pointers in his last six games.
Dosunmu made 7 of 12 shots. Kofi Cockburn added 12 points and 14 rebounds for Illinois.
Pat Spencer led Northwestern with 18 points, and Miller Kopp scored 14. The Wildcats made just 5 of 20 3-pointers in remaining winless since they beat Nebraska at home on Jan. 11.
It was 51-44 midway through the second half when Griffin threw down an alley-oop dunk and Giorgi Bezhanishvili got credited with a put-back on a ball that Northwestern's Jared Jones might have tipped.
Griffin made three 3-pointers in a span of about three minutes as Illinois bumped its lead to 64-48, drawing loud cheers from their orange-clad fans.
Dosunmu scored 13 in the first half and the 7-foot Cockburn dominated down low with 10 points and seven rebounds as Illinois jumped out to a 34-26 lead.
The Illini took the lead with a 21-5 run that Griffin started with a layup and finished with a 3-pointer to make it 29-16. Trent Frazier hit a runner to make it an eight-point game with 14 seconds left before Spencer missed a turnaround jumper.
Illinois: The schedule takes a tougher turn for the Illini, with games against Indiana, No. 23 Ohio State and No. 18 Iowa before the Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern: The Wildcats came in ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring and among the worst in field-goal and 3-point percentage. They certainly missed their share of open shots in this one.
Illinois: The Illini host Indiana on Sunday.
Northwestern: The Wildcats will try to stop their streak against the team they most recently beat when they visit Nebraska on Sunday.
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