The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 57-53, in Minneapolis on Sunday.
The three ball was working in full force for the Fighting Illini in the game. They shot an astonishing 47.8% from beyond the arc. Eleven of their eighteen field goals had been from three-point land.
Tyler Griffey and D.J. Richardson led the charge from beyond the arc, but it was a different Illini that stole the show late in the game. With 0:21 left in the game after an Illinois full timeout, Tracy Abrams hit a dagger from three-point land to put Illinois up, 57-53.
Abrams would then grab a rebound off of a Minnesota miss to give the Fighting Illini the win.
Illinois finished the game with three players in double-figures. These players were Tyler Griffey, D.J. Richardson, and Brandon Paul.
Griffey led the team with 16 points off the bench. He went 4-of-9 from the field (all three-pointers) and grabbed four rebounds in 10 minutes.
Richardson and Paul added 13 and 10 points respectively. However, Paul had a rough shooting night by going 3-of-10 from the field.
Although he only scored five points, Tracy Abrams came through when in counted for the Illini. He made the three-pointer that gave Illinois the win and also led the team in rebounds (6) and assists (6).
One thing Minnesota did better than Illinois was rebound the basketball.
The Golden Gophers recorded 34 rebounds as a team and had two players pick up ten rebounds a piece. These players were Trevor Mbakwe and Elliot Eliason.
Mbakwe recorded his eighth double-double of the season (13 points and 10 rebounds). However, he turned the ball over four times which was the most of any player in the game for either team. It was Mbakwe who turned the ball over late in the game right before Abrams hit the dagger for the Fighting Illini.
This win could prove to be a big reason in getting Illinois into the NCAA Tournament this year. The Illini have now beaten the #1 and the #18 teams in the nation after going 1-6 in seven conference games.
Illinois proved that they can be successful against non-conference teams, but have struggled in Big Ten conference play (the toughest conference in the NCAA). However, Illinois is 4-4 against ranked opponents this season.
The ranked opponents they have beaten include: #10 Gonzaga, #8 Ohio State, #1 Indiana, and #18 Minnesota. On top of this, they still have to play Michigan and Ohio State again this season.
The Fighting Illini are now 17-8 overall and 4-7 in the Big Ten.
Their next game will be against the Purdue Boilermakers on February 13th. The Boilermakers beat the Illini, 68-61, in their first meeting this year. They are 12-12 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten.
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