Sophomore swingman Alan Griffin produced a career-high 24 points off the bench to spearhead Illinois’ 74-66 Big Ten victory over Northwestern on Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
Ayo Dosunmu delivered 21 points and Kofi Cockburn contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds for Illinois (19-9, 11-6 Big Ten) to stay in a four-way tie for second in the conference race.
Pat Spencer scored 18 points to pace Northwestern (6-21, 1-16), which dropped its 12th game in a row. Miller Kopp added 14 points and Pete Nance had 12 off the bench as the Wildcats shot 41 percent from the field, but got outrebounded 42-29.
Northwestern held a few small leads in the opening minutes, but Illinois mixed Dosunmu’s 15-foot pullups with Cockburn’s dunks and layups to forge a 34-26 halftime lead. Dosunmu posted 13 points and Cockburn added 10 points and 7 rebounds as they combined to shoot 11 of 15 from the field in the half.
Illinois pushed the lead into double figures multiple times in the second half, but Northwestern kept rallying. Kopp swished a 3-pointer and Spencer drove the baseline for a 3-point play to pull within 43-38 with 15:32 left.
Then, with Cockburn bogged down by foul trouble in the second half, Griffin stepped forward. He delivered 17 points in an eight-minute stretch — burying five 3-pointers and jamming an alley-oop pass from Da’Monte Williams — to give Illinois a 64-48 bulge with 6:17 left.
Griffin, whose previous career-high was 19 points, finished with a career-high 6 3-pointers on 8 attempts and also grabbed 7 rebounds in his 21 minutes.
Northwestern made one more run and chopped the margin to 66-59 when Nance swished a second-chance 3-pointer with 2:49 to go, but the Wildcats couldn’t get closer than 7.
—Field Level Media