CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)Coleman Hawkins scored 18 points and Illinois held No. 24 Rutgers scoreless for more than 10 minutes in the second half, rallying for a 69-60 win Saturday.
The Illini (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) trailed 47-41 with 14 1/2 minutes left before Hawkins’ 3-pointer started a 19-0 run.
Rutgers (16-9, 8-6) missed 15 straight shots during its drought.
Hawkins hit four consecutive shots – including a 3 – and gave the Illini the lead for good at 48-47. The Illini have won three straight against ranked opponents.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood said Hawkins ”bides his time” with a patient approach reminiscent of former Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu.
Hawkins said it isn’t ”anyone’s fault but mine” that he has frequently taken some time to work his way into games this season. He went 3 of 4 in the first half with three rebounds and three assists before keying the big run.
”Today I tried to get involved, tried to get a few shots in and get to the offensive glass, whatever that is, to kind of impact the game early,” Hawkins said. ”I think that energy carried over.”
Matthew Mayer scored his first points and drew a foul at the 7:25 mark, hit the ensuing free throw and made a 3 a possession later to give Illinois a 60-47 cushion with 6:45 left. Oskar Palmquist finally hit a jumper to break the Rutgers slump.
Illinois players combined for seven blocked shots to Rutgers’ six.
”They bothered us at the rim,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. ”But you almost have to go through them, you’ve got to try to dunk the ball, even if you get a charge on something like that. You’ve got to finish with tremendous toughness around that basket.”
Hawkins also had eight rebounds. Dain Dainja and Terrence Shannon Jr. each added 15 points for the Illini.
Underwood praised Dainja for reshaping his body and diet since transferring to Illinois from Baylor and for carving out a key role this year.
”It wasn’t easy for him, but it’s also a tribute to Dain that he didn’t shy away from it and he accepted it,” Underwood said. ”Then he was a battering ram for Kofi (Cockburn) in practice, but all that pays off.”
Caleb McConnell and Clifford Omoruyi scored 14 points apiece to lead the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers led 34-30 at halftime after Paul Mulcahy hit consecutive jumpers and Illinois missed its last six shots.
Underwood said forward RJ Melendez did not play due to a suspension stemming from his violation of team rules.
Illinois sophomore guard Luke Goode made his season debut after missing four months with a foot fracture he sustained in a preseason scrimmage. He played five minutes and missed his only shot.
”You have the build-up to playing the season, and boom, like that your season is taken away from you,” Hawkins said. ”It’s tough on you mentally and physically. It was just good to see Luke back.”
Goode played sparingly as a freshman but was expected to factor into the team as a capable shot-maker.
Rutgers: An 0-2 mark on the road this week after losing starter Mawot Mag to a torn ACL doesn’t spell doom for the Scarlet Knights, who are solidly in the Big Ten mix behind No. 1 Purdue. Pikiell’s group could bolster its NCAA Tournament resume with a strong conference finish and a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
Illinois: The Illini started slow after a bit of unexpected rest following the postponement of a home game against last-place Minnesota, but surged behind strong efforts from Hawkins and Dainja. The lockdown defense didn’t hurt, either.
Rutgers: Hosts struggling Nebraska on Tuesday.
Illinois: Visits Penn State on Tuesday.
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