USA TODAY Sports
Northwestern won its first road game against a ranked team since 2009 on Thursday night, easily dispatching of a struggling Illinois squad.
The Northwestern Wildcats notched a 68-54 upset victory over the No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini in Big Ten action on Thursday night in Champaign, Ill. Guard Reggie Hearn led Northwestern with 22 points, helping the Wildcats win at Assembly Hall for the second consecutive season.
The Wildcats (11-7) jumped out to a 15-point halftime lead behind a 57.5-percent shooting performance in the opening half. Illinois' defense improved in the second half, applying several variations of half- and full-court pressure, but Northwestern continued to make the most of its opportunities from the field, connecting on half of its three-point attempts in addition to a solid effort from inside the arc.
Brandon Paul made 9 of 16 shots for 21 points for Illinois (14-5), but the rest of the team combined to shoot just 10 for 33 from the floor.
The Illini, who will likely fall out of the top 25 after losing for the fourth time in five Big Ten games, will hit the road to face Nebraska on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Northwestern returns home to take on the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday.