Harper scores 27, Rutgers beats No. 22 Illinois 72-57
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Ron Harper Jr. broke out of his shooting slump with one of those nights where he hit almost everything.
Harper hit all five of his 3-pointers and scored 27 points, and Rutgers remained unbeaten at home with a 72-57 victory over No. 22 Illinois on Saturday, sending the Illini to their fourth straight loss.
Gio Baker and Akwasi Yeboah added 12 points apiece and Myles Johnson had 11 rebounds as the Scarlet Knights (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten) improved to a nation's best 17-0 at home.
''It was Ron's night and we got him the basketball,'' Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. ''That's what makes us a good team, it's different players' night and different games we embrace the success someone else has. That's the sign of a good team.''
Over his six games, Harper was 3 of 18 from long range (16.7%) and 16-of-50 overall, averaging 6.7 points. The sophomore swingman was 11 of 14 from the field against Illinois in falling two points shy of his career high.
''I am not going to lie about it, I did,'' Harper said when asked if he knew his shots had not been falling. ''When you are not shooting well, you look at the shots you are taking and you tell yourself you are going to take better ones, and that's what I did today.''
Indiana was the last Big Ten program to start 17-0 at home, doing it 2015-16. Rutgers has home games left against Michigan and No. 9 Maryland.
''We've won every game because we expected to win every game,'' Rutgers freshman guard Paul Mulcahy said of playing at home. ''But honestly, we are just taking it one game at a time, not looking ahead. We'll be focused on Michigan.''
Illinois (16-9, 8-6) played without leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu (15.8 points). The sophomore guard hurt his left knee at the final buzzer in a loss against Michigan State on Tuesday night. There was no structural damage, and he made the road trip, watching the game in sweats.
''Without our alpha, we competed, but you can't shoot 26% on the road (second half) and win,'' Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. ''Give the Rutgers defense a lot of credit for that. They deserve that.''
Alan Griffin had 14 points to lead the Illini. Kofi Cockburn added 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Andres Feliz added 10 points.
Feliz hit a 3-pointer to get Illinois within 43-42 early in the second half, but Johnson scored underneath and Harper nailed a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-point run that gave the Scarlet Knights at 54-42 lead.
Illinois, which shot 31% from the field overall, never got closer than seven points again. It trailed by 20 late.
Harper was the story for Rutgers in the opening 20 minutes. He scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in helping the Scarlet Knights take a 34-32 lead.
This is the first time Rutgers has nine conference wins since 1998-99, when it was in the Big East (9-9). This is its third win over a ranked team, its most since winning four against ranked foes in 2001-02. ... All three this season have been by double digits.
Illinois: After being ranked the last five weeks, the Illini are going to fall out of the poll.
Rutgers: Home sweet home. The problem for the Scarlet Knights is they are 1-6 on the road and if the NCAA is looking to keep them out of the tournament, that's the reason.
Illinois: At No. 13 Penn State on Tuesday, looking to sweep two-game season series.
Rutgers: Hosts Michigan on Wednesday, trying to split season series.
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