Illinois 57, Minnesota 53

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took Illinois awhile to get warmed up. But once shots started falling, the Illini made them in bunches.
Illinois made 11 3-pointers in the final 27 minutes Sunday as the Illini followed up their upset of top-ranked Indiana with a 57-53 victory at Minnesota.
After the two teams traded the lead for much of the second half, the 3-pointer played a big part in Illinois securing the upset. D.J. Richardson made a pair of free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 2:38 to play that gave the Illini a 54-51 lead. Tracy Abrams then made a 3-pointer with 17 seconds to play that gave Illinois its final points.
On the other end of the floor, Illinois limited the Gophers to one field goal over the final 4:40.
The victory, combined with the win over the Hoosiers, allowed Illinois (17-8, 4-7 Big Ten) to win consecutive Big Ten games for the first time this season. It is also the first time that the Illini have won two games in a row against ranked opponents since 2010. No. 18 Minnesota (17-7, 5-6) has now lost two in a row
Tyler Griffey led Illinois with four 3-pointers and 16 points. Richardson made three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, and Brandon Paul added 10 points. Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 16 points while Trevor Mbakwe scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Illinois entered the game averaging 5.9 3-pointers per game and was 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage, making just 26.7 percent of its long-range attempts. But the Illini took advantage of Minnesota's struggles to defend perimeter jumpers. Illinois went 11-for-23 from long range (47.8 percent) against a Minnesota team that is 11th in the league in 3-point field goal defense.
Minnesota was without second leading scorer Rodney Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury in practice Saturday. Williams was in uniform and went through pregame warmups, but did not play. Williams is averaging 11.9 points per game.
As was the case to start the first half, Illinois struggled to score in the opening minutes of the second half. The Illini made only one field goal in the first six-plus minutes of the second half and Minnesota went on a 7-3 run and led 37-34 when Mbakwe made a layup with 15:27 to play.
The Illini, however, scored nine of the next 12 points and led 45-40 when Richardson made a pull-up 15-footer in transition with 10:35 to play.
It appeared Minnesota was on its way to an easy victory in the game's opening minutes. With Illinois frigid from the field, the Gophers opened the game on a 13-2 run.
Illinois missed its first eight field-goal attempts and didn't make a shot from the field until Nnanna Egwu made a baseline jumper with 10:29 to play in the half. The Illini, who made just 3 of their first 13 shots, trailed by 12 points when Minnesota's Austin Hollins made three free throws with 4:31 left in the half.
In the final minutes of the first half, it was Minnesota that went cold from the field. The Gophers failed to make a field goal over the final 5:12 of the half, and Illinois took advantage.
The Illini made four 3-pointers over the final four minutes -- three from Richardson and one from Paul -- and closed the half on a 17-4 run.
After the Gophers turned the ball over in the closing seconds of the half, Richardson dribbled the ball up the left side of the court, stopped and buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Illinois a 31-30 lead at the break.
Notes: Both teams made a change in their starting lineups. Big man Elliott Eliason started in his place of Williams. Illinois coach John Groce started guard Joseph Bertrand in place of Tracy Abrams. ... Minnesota has not swept a two-game regular-season series from Illinois since 1996. ... After Thursday night's win over top-ranked Indiana, the Illini became the only team in the country to record three wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10 in the country. Illinois previously defeated current No. 6 Gonzaga and current No. 10 Ohio State. ... Minnesota hosts Wisconsin on Thursday night in an important game for the Gophers. After the game with the Badgers, Minnesota will play four of its final six Big Ten games away from Williams Arena.

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