National Basketball Association
Rutgers 91, Illinois 88
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, December 20, 2020
Where: Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), Piscataway, New Jersey
Officials: # Larry Scirotto, # Robert Riley, # Kelly Pfeifer
Attendance: N/A

In Rutgers' first Top 20 matchup since 1979, Ron Harper Jr. and the No. 19 Scarlet Knights shrugged off a slow start and held on to beat No. 13 Illinois 91-88 in Big Ten play on Sunday afternoon at Piscataway, N.J.

Harper scored all of his game-high 28 points over the final 27 minutes as Rutgers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) transformed a 10-point deficit late in the first half into a 12-point lead with seven minutes to go.

Jacob Young posted 24 points, Montez Mathis added 15 points and Myles Johnson produced nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocks off the bench as Rutgers moved to 2-0 in league play for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 2014.

Ayo Dosunmu produced 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to pace No. 13 Illinois (5-3, 1-1), which never had possession with a chance to tie after Rutgers' big surge midway through the second half. Sophomore 7-footer Kofi Cockburn added 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 17th career double-double, and Trent Frazier contributed 19 points and five assists.

Illinois led throughout the first half in Rutgers' first game between top 20 teams since March 16, 1979 -- when the Scarlet Knights fell to St. John's in an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal.

Harper, who entered ranked sixth nationally in scoring at 24.0 points per game, missed his first three shots and didn't enter the scoring column until 6:32 remained in the first half.

Rutgers entered the day limiting opponents to 37 percent shooting -- including 28 percent from 3-point range -- but Illinois softened the Scarlet Knights' stout man-to-man early by mixing post feeds to Cockburn with 3-pointers from Frazier and Da'Monte Williams.

After Illinois made five of its first seven 3-point shots, Rutgers extended its defense. The Illini took advantage by running backdoor cuts for layups by Andre Curbelo and Dosunmu to build a 35-25 lead with 4:19 left in the half.

Sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers by Young and Harper, Rutgers pulled to within 41-37 at the break. Rutgers took its first lead, 49-47, with 14:42 to go on one of Harper's five 3-pointers.

The teams traded the lead multiple times until Rutgers scored six points on one possession to turn a 56-55 edge into a 62-55 margin with 9:13 to go.

Geo Baker sank two free throws and, on the second shot, Illinois' Williams was whistled for a flagrant foul for raising his right elbow when jostling for position with Rutgers' Paul Mulcahy. After Mulcahy sank two free throws, Rutgers retained possession and Mathis turned an offensive rebound into a dunk.

--Field Level Media

Top Game Performances
Illinois   Rutgers
Ayo Dosunmu 22 Scoring Ron Harper Jr. 28
Ayo Dosunmu 6 Assists Geo Baker 5
Kofi Cockburn 12 Rebounds Myles Johnson 13
Trent Frazier 4 Free Throws Made Jacob Young 7
Andre Curbelo 1 Steals Myles Johnson 3
N/A Blocks Myles Johnson 3
Team Stats Summary
Team Points FG% 3PM-3PA FTM-FTA Assists Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers
Illinois 88 54.0 9-15 11-15 20 32 0 4 13
Rutgers 91 46.8 8-20 25-36 12 33 8 8 9