Champaign, IL – Reggie Hearn scored 20 points as Northwestern knocked off No. 23 Illinois, 68-54, at Assembly Hall.
Jared Swopshire and Alex Marcotullio totaled 12 points each for the Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big Ten), who had dropped three of their last four coming in.
"We came in here and got a good win on the road," said Hearn. "The coaches put in a good game plan defensively and we just executed it."
Brandon Paul had 21 points for the Illini (14-5, 1-4), who have lost three in a row all by double-digit margins. Tracy Abrams contributed 10 points in the setback.
Paul's triple reduced Illinois' deficit to 38-28 within the three-minute mark of the second half, but the visitors rallied to restore a 15-point margin, at 45-30, on a Marcotullio trey with 12:53 to play.
D.J. Richardson's free throws made it 48-38 with 6:20 on the clock and Paul made 1-of-2 from the line for a nine-point deficit, but Tre Demps pushed Northwestern's lead back into double digits (50-39) on his two free shots less than two minutes later.
Abrams hit a jumper and it was a nine-point game once more, but Illinois was forced to foul. Swopshire and Dave Sobolewski went a combined 5-of-6 from the charity stripe for a 56-42 game with 1:38 showing and the hosts couldn't spark any comeback.
The Wildcats led 10-3 in the early stages thanks to long-distance buckets from Hearn and Swopshire, then took an 18-11 edge on a Marcotullio trey with just over 7 1/2 minutes gone.
It was 23-12 just over two minutes later thanks to a Swopshire bucket, then the visitors' lead swelled to 36-21 after a pair from the line by Sobolewski inside of two minutes left in the half.
The Wildcats made 8-of-15 three-point tries and connected on 47.2 percent of their shots from the floor ... Despite the setback, Illinois has won 28 of the last 31 home meetings with Northwestern ... The loss deprived Illini head coach Dave Groce of his 100th career victory ... Sobolewski led all players with six assists ... Illinois picked up a 30-24 edge on the glass, but shot just 38.8 percent (19-of-49) from the field.