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Head scores 26 to sink scrappy Wildcats

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Luther Head's high-rising moves to the rim
and soft jumpers from the perimeter led No. 1 Illinois to another
victory and a place in the school's record books.

"We love it. We've done something no one else has done," Head
said Saturday after the Illini's 78-66 win over Northwestern gave
them an 18-0 record -- the best start in school history.

"Just to accomplish something no one has, we've got something
to talk about. But we still have a lot left to accomplish," said
Head, who finished with a season-high 26 points, 17 in the second
half.

The Illini had tied the school's 1988-89 Final Four team on
Wednesday with their 17th straight win. Now, the record's all
theirs.

The 6-foot-3 Head used his great leaping ability to score from
the inside, hit four 3-pointers and played hustling defense for the
Illini, who finally pulled away in the latter stages of the second
half against the scrappy Wildcats (8-8, 1-3 Big Ten).

"The whole team loves challenges. We play well when there is
something to prove," said Head, who scored a total of seven points
in two games against Northwestern last season.

On Saturday, he was 9-for-14 from the field.

"Nobody cares who the high scorer is. We've got a lot of guys
who can score," he said.

In a boisterous Welsh-Ryan Arena filled with both purple-clad
Northwestern students and orange-wearing Illini followers, Illinois
trailed only twice -- early in the game --and led by eight at
halftime.

Last season in Evanston, Illinois was ahead of Northwestern by
nine at the half, but the Wildcats rallied for a 10-point victory.

Not this time. Illinois' experience and poise kept it from
happening again, even though Head and Deron Williams picked up
their third fouls early in the second half.

"The big difference is that we're a year older and we
understand what it means to win on the road," Illinois coach Bruce
Weber said.

"They're tough to play here. ... It's tough for anybody to win
on the road in the Big Ten. So, it's rewarding."

Roger Powell scored 15 points and Dee Brown had 12 for the
Illini, who are 4-0 in the conference and have won 14 straight Big
Ten games.

Leading scorer Vedran Vukusic, held to just two free throws in
the first half, led Northwestern with 20 points, while Davor
Duvancic added 13. The Wildcats shot 57 percent but still lost,
partly because they had 16 turnovers. Northwestern fell to 0-13
all-time against No. 1-ranked teams.

Vukusic saluted Illinois' performance this season, while adding
a qualifier.

"They're No. 1 and they're going to be for a while," he said.
"But they're beatable."

After Northwestern got within six points early in the second
half, Head drove for a basket and then took a nice pass from
Williams for a high-rising slam as the Illini went back up by 10.

Vukusic banked in a shot and hit a 3-pointer to slice it to
five. But James Augustine got inside for a basket and converted a
three-point play, dousing Northwestern's comeback attempt.

"When they made a play, we made a play. When they made a play
the crowd would go crazy and you got to do something to shut them
up," Brown said.

Williams got his fourth foul with 11:39 to go, but Illinois
added to the lead as Jack Ingram hit a jumper and Head made two
free throws for a 12-point lead.

After Powell stepped outside and hit a jumper and the
ever-present Head made a steal and drove the length of the floor
for a basket, the Illini led by 13 with 7 minutes to go.

"They spread you out and the have guys knocking down 3s,"
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "Their speed is a factor."

After Head hit his final 3-pointer to push the margin to 18 in
the closing minutes, he went airborne for a celebratory chest bump
with Brown.

"Luther had a special day," Weber said.