Illini win 24th straight Big Ten game

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Dee Brown said draining 3-pointers against Northwestern on Wednesday night was like playing a game of "H-O-R-S-E."

"I hit my first two and that confidence just kept building. I felt like I could shoot anywhere," Brown said after he dropped six 3s and finished with 20 points to lead top-ranked and unbeaten Illinois to an 84-48 win that clinched a share of the Big Ten title.

One of his five first-half 3-pointers was shot midway between the circles, about 28 feet from the basket.

"When he stands still, it's automatic," Northwestern's T.J. Parker said.

The Illini never trailed en route to their 24th straight Big Ten win and their 20th in a row at Assembly Hall.

Brown was 6-of-8 from 3-point range. The barrage included consecutive baskets that started a 16-6 run that gave Illinois a 28-13 lead with 9:37 left in the first half. A 4:46 drought later in the half sealed Northwestern's fate and the Illini led 45-22 at halftime.

Illinois (28-0, 14-0) clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title for the second consecutive season. They can win the championship outright with a victory in either of their last two games -- Purdue and Ohio State -- or a loss by second-place Michigan State.

But the Illini did no celebrating Wednesday night, even though they locked up at least a share of the league championship for the fourth time in five seasons. They want to win a second consecutive outright title before throwing any parties.

"Now we're down to a week," Illini coach Bruce Weber said. "We win two more games we go undefeated in the regular season, which only one other team has done in the Big Ten. Another outright title, first back-to-back titles (for Illinois) since 1951-52. There's a lot of things on the line and I hope it keeps them

Motivation was no problem for the Illini on Wednesday night. They took advantage of two Northwestern turnovers early to take a 7-0 lead that had Wildcats coach Bill Carmody throwing up his hands.

"So 7-0 and we haven't even gotten a shot off," Carmody said. "And from there it got worse."

The Wildcats (13-13, 5-8) did hit six of their first seven shots, but by then Illinois had rolled to a 23-13 lead.

Brown's second 3 came after a flurry of 11 consecutive passes that crossed the court, went into the lane and back out again before he was open from long range.

"That was the best ball movement I ever saw in my life because by the time that ball got to me, me and the Northwestern defender looked at each other and he was like, 'I ain't coming out there,'" Brown said. "I was basically shooting H-O-R-S-E shots."

Brown also finished the decisive first-half run with a 28-footer and a fast-break layup off Rich McBride's steal. He also had two steals and five assists, including a nifty alley-oop toss to Roger Powell Jr. for a rim-rattling dunk that gave the Illini a 66-28 lead with 13:38 to go.

Powell finished with 18 points, Luther Head scored 14 and Deron Williams had 13 points and six assists for Illinois, which had a 36-21 rebounding advantage.

The Wildcats played their sixth straight game without forward
Michael Thompson, who averages 10 points per game. He hurt his foot on Feb. 2 and did not dress for the game.

Mohamed Hachad scored 15 points to lead the Wildcats, while
Vedran Vukusic had 14.

Northwestern was just 1-of-17 from 3-point range and finished the night 22-of-54 from the field (41 percent).