Published February 11, 2013
| Sports Network
Minneapolis, MN – Tracy Abrams' 3-point dagger with 15 seconds remaining helped Illinois pick up their second Top-25 victory in the last four days, downing No. 18 Minnesota, 57-53, in a pivotal Big Ten Conference matchup Sunday.
Tyler Griffey had 16 points and four rebounds and connected on 4-of-7 from behind the arc for the Fighting Illini (17-8, 4-7 Big Ten), who were coming off a victory versus No. 1-ranked Indiana on Thursday.
"I thought we had several people step up and make plays," Illinois coach John Groce. "That is two games in a row where we were tough and able to weather some adversity."
D.J. Richardson netted three 3-pointers en route to 13 points, as Illinois came alive after an poor start to steal a conference road win. Abrams shot just 2-of-9 from the floor, but finished with five points, six rebounds and six assists.
Austin Hollins scored 16 points and Trevor Mbakwe registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards for the Golden Gophers (17-7, 5-6), who lost their second straight and sixth in their last eight overall following a promising 15-1 start to the season.
"We just didn't do the things we had to do in guarding the threes or switching like we should," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "A lot of things they did better than us in the game, just taking care of the basketball."
Sam McLaurin's 3-pointer -- his first of the season -- tied the game at 37-37 in the early stages of the second half. Hollins nailed a triple with a little over 13 minutes to play, but Griffey and Brandon Paul answered with back- to-back 3-pointers to gave the Illini a 43-40 edge.
The craziness continued, as Minnesota used two more threes to take a 46-45 lead with 8 1/2 minutes to play.
The contest stayed close as the clock wound down and Richardson went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe with 2:38 to play, making it 54-51 in favor of the visitors. Elliot Eliason's jumper on the next touch brought Minnesota within one, and the game stayed 54-53 until under one minute remaining.
Illinois got the ball back after Mbakwe turned the ball over with 50 seconds to play, and the team was forced to put up a shot. Abrams, who had made just one field goal the entire game, stepped up and nailed the clutch 3-pointer which all but put the game out of reach for the shocked Gophers.
Illinois started the game looking like a team which lost to the nation's top- ranked squad, not a team that just defeated it. Some stifling Minnesota defense contributed to the Illini trailing 13-2 just over seven minutes into the action.
Illinois didn't register a field goal until the 10:30 mark of the first half on Nnanna Egwu's jumper, which made it 13-6 in favor of the Gophers. Up to that point, Griffey's four free throws were Illinois' only source of offense.
Just when it looked like Minnesota started to take control with a 26-14 lead with 4 1/2 minutes remaining, Illinois woke up out of its slumber.
Richardson highlighted a 17-4 flurry with three 3-pointers, the final one coming as the first half expired, stunning the home crowd to give Illinois a 31-30 edge after 20 minutes of play.
Illinois shot 9-of-24 at the break compared to 10-of-28 for Minnesota.
The victory was just the second conference road win for Illinois this season ... The Illini entered the game having dropped 10 straight road games against ranked Big Ten opponents since a 63-56 win at then-No. 11 Wisconsin on Feb. 9, 2010 ... The Gophers are 12-2 at Williams Arena ... Illinois leads the all- time series, 117-64, but the Gophers won this season's earlier matchup, 84-67, on Jan. 9 ... The Illini made six 3-pointers in the second half and finished making 11-of-23 from behind the arc.