Illini grade vs. Gophers: B
Our breakdown of Thursday's 51-49 win against Minnesota at the Big Ten tournament:
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brandon Paul, Illinois.
There’s no other choice. The senior’s dagger at the buzzer secured the win and removed the little bit of doubt folks had about the Illini getting an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
The Hollinses carried the Gophers and Paul’s heroics (25 points) lifted the Illini, who got a big three-pointer from D.J. Richardson in the final minute.
Nnanna Egwu and Tyler Griffey combined to score 10 points with eight boards, but they hld Minnesota’s bigs (13 points, nine boards) in check.
Sam McLaurin’s forced turnover late set the stage for the final play of the game and Joseph Bertrand returned from a shoulder injury with productive minutes.
The low score isn’t attractive, but Illinois’ defense stymied the Gophers and limited them to a season-low 16 points at the half. This time of year, it’s all about hanging Ws.