CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Dee Brown scored 20 points and Nick Smith came off the bench to add 14 as 24th-ranked Illinois extended its winning streak to eight games with a 66-56 Big Ten Conference victory over Northwestern.
Brown shot 7-of-10 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. His 3-pointer gave the Fighting Illini the lead for good, 30-29, with 55 seconds left in the first half.
The contest remained tight until Illinois used a 17-6 run to take a 58-44 advantage with 7:49 left in the second half. Forward Roger Powell scored eight points in the spurt, while Brown had two 3-pointers.
Powell and Deron Williams added 13 points apiece for the Illini (20-5, 11-3 Big Ten), who are on their their longest winning streak since capturing eight in a row to open the 2002-03 season.
Illinois recorded its fifth straight 20-win season - the seventh time in the last eight years it has reached that plateau. The Illini also clinched a top-three finish in the conference to earn a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
The win kept Illinois one-half game behind first-place Michigan State in the Big Ten race.
Vedran Vukusic and Jitim Young each contributed 16 points as Northwestern (12-13, 7-7) lost for only the second time in its last six games.
The schools split the season series, but Illinois has won 22 of the last 23 meetings at Assembly Hall.
The Illini, who shot 54 percent (26-of-48) from the field, completed their home schedule with a 12-1 mark. They improved to 20-5 on Senior Day, capturing five in a row.