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11/17/2013 11:41 PM EST
Illinois St. holds off Northwestern 68-64
ILLINOIS ST 68, NORTHWESTERN 64

By JACK MCCARTHY
Associated Press

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Freshman Tony Wills hit two free throws
with 5.9 seconds left as Illinois State held off a late
Northwestern comeback to secure a 68-64 non-conference victory
on Sunday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Teammates Zach Lofton and Daishon Knight led a balanced attack
with 15 points apiece while John Jones had 11, Reggie Lynch
added 10 and Michael Middlebrooks collected 11 rebounds.

The Redbirds (1-2) snapped a two-game losing streak and won for
the third time in the five meetings with the Wildcats.

Northwestern (1-2) rallied from a 19-point second half deficit
and trailed 66-64 after JerShon Cobb's jumper with 8.2 seconds
to play. But Wills locked down the win seconds later with his
free throws.

Cobb closed with 19 points, and Drew Crawford had 13 while Tre
Demps added 12.

The Redbirds overcame a sluggish start and took a lead for good
in the game's ninth minute.

Northwestern opened an early 8-3 lead while Illinois State hit
just one of its first nine field goals. The Wildcats then missed
seven straight shots while the Redbirds sprinted to an 15-8 lead
by the 8:06 mark after back-to-back Knight layups, a Lynch dunk
and another a fast break jam by Middlebrooks.

The Redbirds later used a 9-0 run to open a 31-17 lead with 4:04
showing on the way to a 40-22 halftime edge. Lofton had 12
first-half points on 3-of-6 shooting from the arc. Northwestern
missed all seven 3-point tries.

The Wildcats opened the second half with six unanswered points,
including a Dave Sobolewski 3-pointer that cut the deficit to
12.

The Redbirds replied with seven straight points, including a
Lofton 3-pointer for a 47-28 lead with 16:04 remaining.

Another Northwestern surge cut the Illinois State lead to single
digits at 53-44 when Sobolewski drove uncontested for a layup
with 10 minutes left.

The Wildcats trailed 63-56 with 2:28 to play, hit 4-of-6 free
throws over the next two minutes and had two Cobb baskets.

Northwestern, under first-year coach Chris Collins, has four
starters back from a team that went 13-19 under former coach
Bill Carmody. Second-year Redbirds coach Dan Muller opened the
season with just two returnees, no seniors and nine players with
no Division I experience.

Chris Collins is the son of Redbirds legend Doug Collins,
Illinois State's all-time leading scorer (2,240 points) who
later went on to a lengthy NBA career as a player and coach.

Both teams resume play Wednesday with Northwestern at
Illinois-Chicago while Illinois State hosts Manhattan.

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