The Illinois Fighting Illini rode stifling defense, a solid all around performance from Nnanna Egwu, and Kendrick Nunn’s second 19 point outburst of the season en route to a 62-49 road victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday night.
Egwu had one of his finest performances of the season as he scored 14 points, snagged 11 rebounds, and blocked 4 shots. He was 5-8 from the field and a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe. This is the type of production from Nnanna Egwu that many fans expected to see throughout this entire season.
Kendrick Nunn had the hot shooting hand tonight, registering three 3 pointers before halftime to lead all scorers with 9 points, and then hitting two more crucial threes on back to back possessions in the second half as Illinois answered a 6-0 Minnesota run that had given the Gophers a 35-34 lead. Nunn’s two 3 pointers reclaimed the lead for Illinois and they never relinquished it again.
The Illini defense held Minnesota well below their season average of 44% from the field. The Golden Gophers weren’t so golden, finishing the game 19-51 from the field (37.3%) including a paltry 4-25 from 3 point range (16%). The Illini also managed to cut the head off the snake tonight by holding the Gophers dynamic point guard Deandre Mathieu to 5 points on 1-5 shooting. To be fair, Mathieu was in foul trouble for much of the evening, but when he wasn’t on the bench he posted 3 turnovers to 3 assists and he also missed 2 of 3 free throw attempts.
Illinois returns to action one week from tonight when they return to the State Farm Center to welcome in the Nebraska Cornhuskers in an 8 p.m. contest on the Big Ten Network.
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