After an ugly and lackluster first half the Gophers finally started playing a recognizable (and watchable) brand of basketball. In the first half the Gophers shot 27% from the field (2/10 from three) with 10 turnovers. Trevor Mbakwe had 0 points and sat with minor foul trouble. Austin Hollins sat with foul trouble playing only 4 minutes. And the team managed to score just 16 points! 16 POINTS!!! They were fortunate to be down only 9 points, but fortunately the Illini (other than Brandon Paul) were also shooting poorly.
The second half was much better. Offensively the Gophers were aggressive from the perimeter. Rodney Williams was playing with some life, Austin Hollins was making shots and Andre Hollins hit a couple huge threes to not only get the Gophers back in the game but they were leading for most of the final 10 minutes.
In the final 1:20 the Gophers clung to a 3-point lead and were defending the Illini. Tyler Griffy missed a three, offensive rebound Illinois, Nnanna Egwu missed a put-back, offensive rebound Illinois, D.J. Richardson missed a three, offensive rebound Illinois, D.J. Richardson missed another three, offensie rebound Illinois and then D.J. Richardson finally hit a three to tie it up with 0:48 seconds remaining.
Tubby Smith called a timeout, which comforted no one. Minnesota sputtered for about 30 seconds before an Austin Hollins turnover. And then this happened...
Brandon Paul took over this game and refused to lose. His 25 points led all scorers.
In the end it was poor defensive rebounding and a turnover that doomed the Gopehrs, the same issues that have been plaguing this team much of the season. At least they were playing with some passion and energy, too bad it took them 20 minutes to find it.
Now we sit until Selection Sunday to see who gets the privilege of playing this Gopher team.