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Wildcats Hold Off Illini For 71-70 Win

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS/AP) – The Northwestern Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak, taking a big early lead over Illinois and then holding on for a narrow victory in Evanston on Saturday.

Illinois pulled to within one point with 10.4 seconds left, but couldn’t finish the rally.

Michael Thompson scored 22 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and Northwestern escaped with a wild 71-70 victory over Illinois on Saturday.

Coming off a one-point loss to No. 1 Ohio State a week earlier, Northwestern (14-8, 4-7 Big Ten) blew a 12-point lead in the second half and had to hang on for dear life after getting it back up to seven.

Things got particularly interesting in the final minute.

Demetri McCamey nailed a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, pulling the Fighting Illini (15-8, 5-5) within 68-65, and the drama was just beginning.

Northwestern’s Alex Marcotullio then missed the front end of a one-and-one but took a charge as McCamey got called for an offensive foul with 20.3 seconds left.

After a timeout, Thompson turned the ball over near midcourt. McCamey then hit two free throws to make 68-67 with 10.4 seconds left.

John Shurna immediately answered with two of his own to bump Northwestern’s lead back to three. McCamey then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 7 seconds left, and the Wildcats’ Luka Mirkovic got the rebound and was fouled before making 1 of 2 to make it 71-67.

Illinois’ Brandon Paul hit a 3-pointer as time expired, and Northwestern beat Illinois for just the third time in 23 games.

Thompson was spot on as the Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak, burying 7 of 12 shots and 5 of 8 from long range. His 3-pointer with just over 6 minutes left stopped a 12-0 run after Illinois had tied it at 53, and he hit two more as the lead grew to 64-57.

JerShon Cobb added 13 points for Northwestern, and Drew Crawford scored 12 — all in the first half.

Shurna, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, came off the bench and finished with eight points after missing the Ohio State game because of a concussion.

Paul led Illinois with 21 points. McCamey added 14, but the Illini lost for the fifth time in seven games.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)