INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Brian Cook and Illinois managed to survive.
Cook collected 17 points and 10 rebounds as the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini hung on to beat No. 13 Western Kentucky, 65-60, in a first-round matchup in the West Region.
Cook put the Fighting Illini (25-6) ahead to stay at 55-54 on a pair of free throws with 6:19 left. He scored four more points before fouling out with 2:03 remaining and Illinois leading 63-55.
"I was very confident," Cook said. "These guys have played without me before. The first two games of the season I (was suspended). They've played without me, played with me in foul trouble. They did a great job."
Western Kentucky (24-9) did not make a basket for over five minutes down the stretch as its 12-game winning streak ended. Nate Williams ended the drought with a dunk with 1:42 left and a 3-pointer by David Boyden pulled the Hilltoppers within 63-60 with 56 seconds to go.
Freshmen Dee Brown converted a pair from the line to seal the victory for Illinois.
Williams led Western Kentucky with 17 points. He was the Hilltoppers' only scorer in double figures.
"Obviously, it was a really hard-fought game," Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton said. "We have a lot to be excited about. The way we played, the way we defended and our aggressiveness made some things happen for us. We just came up short in the end."
There were eight ties and nine lead changes, including four lead changes in a six-minute stretch during the middle of the second half.
Mike Wells, who gave Western Kentucky its last lead at 54-53 on a baseline jumper with 6:50 left, scored eight points and led Western Kentucky with six rebounds. Anthony Winchester added nine points for the Hilltoppers on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
Although Cook fouled out, the game was clean, with only 30 total fouls called. In its limited opportunities at the foul line, Western Kentucky struggled, shooting 61.5 percent (8-of-13).
Illinois shot 86 percent (12-of-14) on free throws, including a perfect 4-of-4 from Cook and Brown. Brown had 11 points and fellow freshman Deron Williams added 11 for the Illini.
"We've grown up a lot," Brown said. "It's been fun. We're just learning the game of basketball. We're coming into our roles more."
Western Kentucky was making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, but has not gotten past the first round since 1995. The Hilltoppers have not defeated a higher-seeded team since knocking off second-seeded Seton Hall in the second round in 1993.
Illinois is unbeaten in three NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis and has not lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1995, when it bowed out as a No. 11 seed.