Saturday , Jan , 15 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

No. 1 Illini holds on, remains perfect

Evanston, IL (Sports Network) – Luther Head scored 17 of his season-high 26
points in the second half, and top-ranked Illinois held off Northwestern,
78-66, in Big Ten action at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Roger Powell added 15 points and Dee Brown 12 for the Illini (18-0, 4-0 Big
Ten), who eclipsed the best season start in school history. They have won 14
straight conference games.

“We’ve got something to talk about,” said Head, “but we still have a lot left
to accomplish.”

Vedran Vukusic scored 20 points to lead the Wildcats (8-8, 1-3), who have
dropped three straight. Davor Duvancic added 13 points in defeat, and T.J.
Parker had 12.

Vukusic scored 18 of his 20 in the second half, and Northwestern hung in as
long as it could.

Illinois grabbed a 53-43 lead with 13:09 remaining in the game on Head’s
acrobatic dunk. Northwestern responded with five straight points, however, and
pulled within 53-48 on Vukusic’s three-pointer at 12:11.

But the Illinois lead quickly reached 10 again at 58-48 on a Jack Ingram
jumper with 11:22 to play. Northwestern only got as close as nine after that,
on a Vukusic three that made it 62-53.

Head then twice gave the Illini a 13-point lead, first with a layup that made
it a 66-53 game with 7:19 remaining. Vukusic hit another three-pointer at the
other end, but Head responded in kind to give Illinois a 69-56 with 6:40 left.

The Wildcats were never closer than 12 after that. They fell to 0-13 all-time
against top-ranked teams.

“They’re number one, and they’re going to be for a while,” Vukusic
acknowledged. “But they’re beatable.”

Northwestern held a 4-3 edge early in the first half before Illinois used a
7-0 run to take the lead for good.

The Illini went ahead by as many as 10 points twice in the first half, but
Northwestern kept it close with good shooting and trailed just 42-34 heading
into the locker room.

The Wildcats were 14-of-25 (56 percent) from the field before the break, while
Illinois shot 16-of-34 (47 percent).

Illinois was 17-0 to begin the 1988-89 season…The Illini improved to 3-0 on
the road this season…Illinois improved to 118-34 in the all-time series,
with wins in 10 of the last 11 matchups…The Wildcats upset the Illini in
Evanston last season, taking a 70-60 decision.