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Grades are in: Domask's big second half helps key Illinois win

Feb. 29—Player of the game

Illinois guard Marcus Domask

The second half of Wednesday's 105-97 Illinois win was all Domask (with a fairly sizable helping of Terrence Shannon Jr.). But Minnesota had no answer for Domask and the Illini's "booty ball" offense. The 6-foot-6 guard exploited the Gophers' defensive matchups — often times the 7-inch height advantage he had on Minnesota guard Elijah Hawkins — and scored 18 of his 22 points without leaving the court in the second half. Domask matched efficiency with production, too, shooting 7 of 8 from the field in the second half and 8 of 12 for the game. Throw in his team-high seven rebounds and team-high five assists, and no one stuffed a stat sheet quite like the fifth-year guard.

Backcourt

Illinois: A-

Minnesota: A-

Shannon came up a single point shy of his third 30-point effort in February, finishing with 29 points, including four three-pointers, and six rebounds. Minnesota found out what most teams have this season. The Gophers didn't have the requisite personnel to stop the freight train that is Shannon attacking the basket. Of course, Illinois had its own defensive shortcomings, with Minnesota's Cam Christie and Mike Mitchell Jr. shooting a combined 10 of 13 from three-point range.

Frontcourt

Illinois: A-

Minnesota: A-

Illinois made Minnesota scoring leader Dawson Garcia work to match Shannon's game-high 29 points. The Gophers' big man needed 23 shots to get within striking distance of 30 points for a third time this season and was limited to just two rebounds, while teammate Pharrel Payne put up 15 points and nine rebounds. The Illini countered with a solid frontcourt trio this time around, with Coleman Hawkins, Dain Dainja and Quincy Guerrier combined for 41 points and 11 rebounds.

Bench

Illinois: A+

Minnesota: F

Minnesota had zero bench points until Isaiah Ihnen made a three-pointer with 23 seconds to play Wednesday night at State Farm Center. The Gophers leaned on their starting five because they had to. Meanwhile, Illinois' rotation shrank from 10 deep in Saturday's win against Iowa back to seven against Minnesota. It was a different seven, though, with Dainja putting up 11 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes — by far his biggest opportunity and best effort in Big Ten play this season.

Overall

Illinois: A

Minnesota: B

Having a team that can regularly outscore its opponents has helped Illinois put together a 21-win season with, at minimum, five games still to play. That high-octane Illini offense was the first team in six years — TCU in 2018 the last — to shoot better than 60 percent from the field overall, at least 45 percent from three-point range and commit four or fewer turnovers in a power conference game. It's the type of offense you need to win and was enough Wednesday to overcome the fact Minnesota was nearly as good. Whether defense is really needed to win championships is something Illinois will test in the next month.