Rutgers downs No. 12 Illinois, 4th straight vs ranked team
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Cliff Omoruyi had 15 points, 13 rebounds and a reverse alley-oop dunk in Rutgers’ game-breaking run as the Scarlet Knights routed No. 12 Illinois 70-59 Wednesday night for their fourth straight win over a ranked team.
The run is the longest in school history for the Scarlet Knights (16-9, 10-5 Big Ten), and there’s a chance to continue the streak with games next week at No. 5 Purdue and home against No. 15 Wisconsin. The last team to win four straight against ranked teams in the regular season was Michigan State in 2019-20.
Ron Harper Jr. added 16 points and eight rebounds and had the assist on Omoruyi’s second-half dunk. It was the second basket in a 12-0 run that ballooned the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 47-28. Paul Mulcahy added 13 points and Caleb McConnell had 11.
Center Kofi Cockburn was the only consistent threat for Illinois (18-7, 11-4), finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Trent Frazier added 11 points and RJ Melendez had 10.
The Illini shot 38% from the field, including 6 of 23 from 3-point range. But they missed their first 13 shot attempts and were never in the game.
Rutgers improved to 13-2 at home, and its biggest lead was 60-37 with about six minutes to play.
Rutgers’ recent run has combined good shooting and defense, and that was evident in the early as the Scarlet Knights opened the game with a 17-7 spurt, featuring six points by Harper. Cockburn had all the Illini points inside.
Illinois couldn’t find its shooting touch in the 20 minutes, shooting 32% and connecting the last of its 14 3-point attempts.
Rutgers led 33-24 at half, a season-low first-half point total for Illinois.
The Scarlet Knights received votes in the most recent poll and there is no reason they should not be ranked next week. Illinois had won five of six and will slip a little.
Illinois: Big man Cockburn got no support against Rutgers, something that can’t happen consistently if coach Brad Underwood’s team wants to make a postseason run.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had some head-scratching losses early in a season where expectations were high after getting to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 1991. The expectations have returned and there is no question this is a tournament team.
Illinois: At No. 19 Michigan State on Saturday.
Rutgers: At No. 5 Purdue on Sunday.