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    Feb. 18, 1998

    Wildcats Can't Handle Illini

    Men's Hoops Goes Down, 69-57

    Game Stats

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Eleven minutes into the game against Northwestern and Kevin Turner, Illinois' leading scorer, had yet to score.

    But instead of hesitating, he made a one-handed grab of a pass that appeared on its way out of bounds, tossed it up and had the first three of his 28 points Wednesday night to lead the Illini to a 69-57 victory over the Wildcats.

    "Just because I miss a couple of shots, that's not going to stop me from shooting," Turner said. "I know my guys on the team have confidence in me, the coaches have confidence in me. That's what they want me to do is go out and shoot, so I can't quit on them because I miss three or four shots."

    Combined with Purdue's 88-69 loss to Iowa, the win moved No. 23 Illinois (19-8 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) into second place in the Big Ten. Michigan State, with a 12-2 conference record, is in first and Purdue, at 10-3, is third.

    The Illini made 11 of their 18 3-point shots in the game, which was their 19th straight win over the Wildcats (9-14, 2-11) at Assembly Hall.

    Turner finished 10-of-21 from the field, and Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill said Illinois' leading scorer "has no conscience" when it comes to putting up shot after shot.

    "Plus we did a horrible job guarding him, not that he didn't make tough shots," O'Neill said.

    Illinois led by eight at halftime and outscored the Wildcats 15-3 in the first seven minutes of the second half to take a 46-26 lead. Nine of those points came from consecutive 3-pointers from Matt Heldman, Jerry Hester and Turner that kicked off the half for the Illini.

    Northwestern's Evan Eschmeyer said he couldn't think of a worse way for the Wildcats to start the half.

    "Heldman, Hester and Turner shoot the ball so well that you can't give them a look or the ball will go in," he said.

    After the Illini run, the Wildcats got no closer than 15 until the end of the game.

    Northwestern was led by Eschmeyer with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his 17th double-double of the season. Sean Wink added 13 points and Julian Bonner had 10.

    Besides Turner, the only other Illinois player in double figures was Hester with 18. Illinois, which was outrebounded 34-24, was led by Brian Johnson with five.

    The Wildcats had a 13-12 lead with nine minutes to go in the first half, but Illinois made four of its six first-half 3-point shots after that and Turner converted on a three-point play as the Illini took a 31-23 lead into intermission.