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Updated: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 11:53 PM EST
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(24) Illinois 78, Iowa 59

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Ticker) -- Illinois played like a team which deserved to crack the top 25. Iowa looked like a team that is not good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Dee Brown scored 18 points and Luther Head added 16 and 10 rebounds to lead the 24th-ranked Fighting Illini to a 78-59 victory over Iowa in a battle of Big Ten rivals.

The win was the seventh in a row and ninth in 10 games for Illinois (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten), which moved back into the poll on Monday and closed within one-half game of first-place Michigan State in the conference.

"They (Michigan State) had a big road win yesterday (at Michigan), so we had to have a big road win tonight to let them know that we're still here fighting for what they're fighting for," Brown said.

During the winning streak, Illinois has held its opponents to averages of 57 points and 41 percent shooting.

Along with its superb defense, Illinois ranks second in the conference in scoring at 73.5 points and shot a sizzling 59 percent in this game while holding Iowa to under 40 percent from the field.

"I don't know if they've played any better than that," said Iowa coach Steve Alford. "They clicked at both ends and we didn't shoot the ball very well. We have to find a way to play better when we don't shoot well."

Coming off back-to-back wins over Michigan and Ohio State, Iowa (14-10, 7-6) is now tied for fourth place with Purdue in the conference.

Jeff Horner led the Hawkeyes with 20 points and Greg Brunner added 18.

Illinois led from start to finish, scoring eight of the game's first 10 points.

After a 3-pointer by Brody Boyd pulled Iowa within 33-28 with 1:13 left, Head completed a three-point play and freshman Rich McBride hit a 3-pointer for Illinois to close the half.

The Fighting Illini hit 7-of-9 shots to start the second half, increasing the advantage to 55-39 on a 3-pointer by Brown with 12:50 left.

Iowa pulled no closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Illinois shot 67 percent in the second half, making 14-of-21 shots, and built its biggest lead at 78-56 on a pair of free throws by Head with 1:46 remaining.

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