Meacham leads Illinois to 67-58 win over Minnesota
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—During Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle’s career at Illinois, the Illini have never lost a game on Senior Day. On Saturday, that streak appeared to be in jeopardy when Minnesota cut Illinois’ 11-point second half lead to just one.
But Trent Meacham scored a key 3-pointer late in the game and had a game-high 21 points to give Illinois a 67-58 win over Minnesota.
Calvin Brock added a season-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Illinois (13-18, 5-13 Big Ten) and Demetri McCamey had eight points.
Illinois used an early second half run to pull away from the Golden Gophers, who were coming off a 69-55 loss to No. 18 Indiana on Wednesday. After leading by one point at halftime, Illinois was propelled by a 10-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Meacham.
Minnesota, however, tried to make a run of its own—a 10-3 spurt midway through the second half—but Meacham hit another 3-pointer and Brock added a jumper to push Illinois’ lead to 57-49.
“My whole message at halftime was it just comes down to playing with some enthusiasm and playing with some emotion and I thought we did that,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said.
Blake Hoffarber led Minnesota with 14 points and six rebounds. Lawrence McKenzie and Lawrence Westbrook each added 10 points. Minnesota fell to 18-12 and 8-10 in Big Ten play.
Illinois also defeated Minnesota 84-60 on the road on Feb. 12.
“The same beating we took at home, we took here,” said Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. “I don’t know what it is, I guess our guys are pretty intimidated by the Illini.”
Illinois shot 41.3 percent from the field on 19-of-46 shooting, but Weber said the difference in the game came down to Illinois’ 45-19 rebounding advantage, specifically its 18 offensive rebounds.
“We had a real breakdown as far as rebounding the ball,” Smith said. “We haven’t rebounded that well all year so that’s not something new. We just haven’t improved and that’s disappointing.”
The Illini led 18-11 off a Calvin Brock jumper with 8:37 to play in the first half. The Golden Gophers fought back to take a brief 22-21 lead, but Illinois ended the first half with a 27-26 advantage. Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field on 9-of-18 shooting, while Illinois shot 33.3 percent (9-of-27). Illinois also managed 14 second-chance points in the first half, compared to only three by Minnesota, and had a 22-9 rebounding advantage.
With the Big Ten Tournament looming next week for both Illinois and Minnesota, Weber and Illinois players said this win could provide momentum for its upcoming game on Thursday, when it will be the No. 10 seed.
“To finish the season on a great note going into the Big Ten Tournament, hopefully gives us some confidence,” Randle said.