- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Malcolm Hill looked like he was in pain warming up before Tuesday night’s game following a hamstring injury in practice on Monday. But after putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds against Rutgers, his teammates joked that he was faking it.

The Illini junior guard led Illinois to an 82-66 win over Rutgers with his sixth double-double of the season.

“(My hamstring) was really tight and sore,” Hill said. “Whenever the ball tips, I tell myself I’m 100 percent because that just makes me not think about it.”

Illinois (12-14, 4-9 Big Ten) cruised out to a 47-25 lead over Rutgers (6-20, 0-13 Big Ten) at the half and never looked back.

And in the second, Hill looked relaxed, throwing down a flashy dunk and even hitting a half-court basket to beat the shot clock midway through the half.

“Malcolm showed some courage today,” Illinois coach John Groce said, mentioning that his leading scorer wasn’t 100 percent healthy Tuesday. Groce said he had a “gut feeling” Hill would be ready to go Tuesday.

The Illini used a 13-0 run to jump out to an early 13-4 lead and Rutgers never recovered, committing 10 turnovers in the first half. Illinois had 21 points off 16 Scarlet Knight turnovers in the game.

“We took really bad shots,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. “We just lost our minds, in a sense.”

The Scarlet Knights were playing without leading-scorer Corey Sanders, who was dealt a two-week suspension Monday for violating team rules.

After the game, Jordan said Sanders’ “absence is felt.”

Illinois went on a 15-2 run later in the half to jump out to a 47-25 lead that effectively put the game out of reach.

The Scarlet Knights have lost 13-straight games, all in conference play.

Illini forward Maverick Morgan had 17 points, while guard Kendrick Nunn added 16.

Jonathan Laurent led Rutgers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but the Scarlet Knights shot 29 percent from the 3-point range and struggled to get anything going offensively. Mike Williams and Bishop Daniels added 15 points apiece.

TIP-INS:

CONFERENCE WOES

Rutgers has now lost 13-straight games, all in Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights are 2-29 in conference play since joining the Big Ten in the 2014-15 season.

MISSING SANDERS

Jordan announced Monday that Sanders was suspended for two weeks for violating team rules. The Scarlet Knights guard is the team’s leading scorer with 16.2 points per game. Sanders has started 21 games for Rutgers this season and leads all Big Ten freshman in points (16.2), steals (1.66), and minutes per game (33.5). Jordan benched the freshman at the start of two games in early January. Sanders also missed Rutgers’ season opener to serve a self-imposed suspension for NCAA violations. “The absence is felt,” coach Eddie Jordan said after the game.

BOUNCING BACK

Hill had 22 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday night, one day after suffering a hamstring injury in practice Monday three days following his worst outing of the season. The junior guard had a season-low seven points and matched his season high with five turnovers in Illinois’ loss at Northwestern on Saturday. He had scored in double-digits in every other game this season. “He’s just a tough nut to crack,” Jordan said after the game.

HEATING UP

Morgan had 17 points and five rebounds on Tuesday. The Illini forward has reached double digits in his last four games. Morgan has played off the bench for the majority of the season, averaging 7.2 points per game coming into Tuesday.

UP NEXT:

Rutgers hosts Penn State on Saturday.

Illinois visits Wisconsin on Sunday.

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