Illinois did not make a field goal in the first 9:30 of play on Sunday as Minnesota stymied the offense, but it was not enough as the Fighting Illini took the lead at halftime, 31-30.
DJ Richardson connected on three three-pointers in the final four minutes in the first half as Illinois bolted back from a 12-point deficit. Richardson drained a buzzer beater to give the Fighting Illini its first lead in the game.
Minnesota started the game on a 8-0 run, including four points from Trevor Mbakwe. Even with an injured right wrist, Mbakwe was physical on the interior for the Gophers.
Austin Hollins led Minnesota on both ends of the court in the opening half. Hollins took advantage of errant shots and sloppy turnovers as he nipped three steals. He connected on four shots and tallied 11 points in the first half.
Hollins was forced to step up defensively as Tubby Smith was without Rodney Williams.
The senior was kept out of the first half after hurting his shoulder in practice on Saturday. Center Elliott Eliason started in his place. In the first half, Eliason was active in the rebounding category, adding six rebounds.