Published January 13, 2015
Joe Coleman scored a game-best 29 points and Andre Hollins added 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists, as eighth- ranked Minnesota scored an impressive 84-67 victory over No. 12 Illinois at Assembly Hall.
Minnesota dominated behind an aggressive, fundamentally-sound defensive effort and the offensive support of its five starters. Trevor Mbakwe posted a double- double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Rodney Williams chipped in with eight points and five rebounds. Minnesota (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) managed all 84 of its points from its starters and held Illinois to 35.4 percent shooting.
Brandon Paul led the Fighting Illini (14-3, 1-2) with 21 points, while D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams added 14 points apiece in defeat.
"I thought we got outside the system on both offense and defense," Illinois head coach John Groce said. "Our execution was awful, and when you play a team as good as (Minnesota) that's what's going to happen."
The Illini led 16-11 after Richardson's 3-pointer nearly halfway through the first half, but the Golden Gophers clamped down and surged in front with seven straight points for a 25-19 lead on Williams' slam. The margin reached seven at 34-27 on Hollins' 3-pointer, but Paul answered to keep it at a four-point game at the half.
Again, Minnesota's vaunted defense provided an opportunity to grow the margin early in the second half. It took the Illini just over four minutes to reach the second-half scoreboard, and by that time the visitors had opened a 42-30 lead on another Hollins trey. Illinois missed its first six shots before Nnanna Egwu drained a jumper.
Moments later, the Illini rattled off 10 points in a row to get within two. Each bucket came in the paint, a philosophy the Illini got away from far too often throughout. Abrams connected on consecutive layups and Joseph Bertrand drained a jumper for a 44-42 game.
The visitors, facing a wave of momentum, calmly answered with seven straight. Hollins scored the last five for a 51-42 lead, and the Illini never got closer than four the rest of the way. Mbakwe's conventional 3-point play pushed the lead to 63-49, and the Golden Gophers made their foul shots down the stretch to maintain the margin.
"When you shoot well, any team is different," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "And we've been shooting well - anybody can step up on any day. Like tonight, Joe Coleman stepped up and played outstanding."
Minnesota made 52.9 percent of its shots, 9-of-15 from beyond the arc and 21- of-27 foul shots in the victory ... Illinois connected on just 3-of-24 from long range, including a 3-of-15 effort from Paul and Richardson ... Egwu finished with eight points and nine rebounds in defeat.