CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- One showdown in the books, another one ahead for surging Minnesota.
With Joe Coleman scoring 24 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, the eighth-ranked Golden Gophers pulled away in the final 10 minutes Wednesday night for an 84-67 Big Ten Conference win over No. 12 Illinois.
Trevor Mbakwe added 19 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota, which travels to No. 5 Indiana on Saturday for a matchup of two of the four Big Ten teams unbeaten in conference play. Andre Hollins pitched in 22 points as the Gophers (15-1, 3-0) stretched their winning streak to 11 games.
"This is a huge uplift and a confidence-builder for us," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "Any win on the road, especially in conference play, is huge. I was impressed with our poise."
Brandon Paul scored 21 points for the Fighting Illini (14-3, 1-2), which missed 20 of 22 shots in a span bridging the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. Illinois canned just 35.4 percent of its field goals for the evening and was a miserable 3-for-24 on 3-pointers.
That more than offset advantages in turnovers (15-7) and second-chance points (22-12) for the Illini, which held the nation's top offensive rebounding team to seven.
"Our effort was pretty good," Illinois coach John Groce said. "We won the possession battle and kept them off the offensive glass. If you had told me before the game that we'd do those things, I would have told you that we won.
"But that's what was so odd about the game. They came into our place and shot 53 percent from the field, 9-of-15 from 3-(point range) and made play after play after play. They got it."
Coleman drained a 3-pointer with two seconds on the shot clock with 9:40 left, starting the Gophers' putaway run. He tallied 12 points in a stretch of 4:53, including another 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining for a 68-53 lead.
Coleman's previous career high was 23 points, set last year at Penn State. The 6-foot-4 sophomore entered the night averaging just 9.7 points per game.
"Joe Coleman was outstanding tonight," Smith said. "Any time we got the ball in his hands, good things happened."
The first half was a classic Big Ten grinder. Both teams were physical defensively, granting few clean looks.
Illinois grabbed a 16-11 lead with 10:45 left in the half on D.J. Richardson's 3-pointer, but Minnesota responded with a 17-5 spurt on which it consistently beat the Illini in transition for fast-break dunks. Mbakwe scored eight points in the stretch, including an emphatic slam.
Paul, who had to switch from No. 3 to No. 12 after blood was found on his jersey, drained a 3-pointer with 52.7 seconds left to cut his team's deficit to 34-30 at intermission. Paul went back to No. 3 after halftime.
The Gophers' outstanding defense continued in the second half. Full of long-armed athletes who do a good job of closing out on shooters, Minnesota consistently stayed in front of the ball.
Those defensive stands, coupled with big games from Coleman and Mbakwe, were too much for Illinois to overcome.
"I don't think they're the best defensive team we've seen this year," Illini guard Tracy Abrams said of the Gophers. "We were trying to make plays that weren't there. We have to be tougher."
Illinois came into the game averaging 9.4 3-point makes per game, but it never found the range. Minnesota consistently switched defenses and made the Illini drive or take contested shots from behind the arc.
It's that kind of defense, coupled with some explosive scorers, that make the Gophers a viable contender in a stacked Big Ten.
"The sky's the limit with this team," Mbakwe said.
NOTES: Illinois honored former player Mannie Jackson at halftime by raising his No. 30 jersey to the rafters. Jackson scored 922 points in three seasons in Champaign, but his greater fame came after his playing career as he became a distinguished executive with General Motors and Honeywell before buying the Harlem Globetrotters in 1993. ... Minnesota's No. 8 ranking is its highest since 1981-82, when it reached No. 5. Clem Haskins' 1996-97 squad was ranked second, but that season was vacated due to NCAA violations. ... Wednesday's game marked the first time since 1987 that the Illini had played back-to-back Big Ten games against top 10 teams, as they were coming off a 74-55 victory over No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday. In 1987, they lost at fourth-ranked Iowa and fell at home to sixth-ranked Purdue.