CHICAGO (AP) — Brandon Paul scored 25 points and hit a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to lead Illinois to a 51-49 victory over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.
Illinois (22-11) led by as much as 12 but was trailing by three when D.J. Richardson nailed a 3 with 47 seconds left to tie it at 49. That basket came after the Illini missed four shots on the possession.
The Gophers (20-12) had a chance to win it, but Austin Hollins stepped on the sideline after catching an inbounds pass with 14 seconds left. Paul then raced up the court and pulled up for the winner as time expired, sending the eighth-seeded Illini to the quarterfinals against top-seeded and third-ranked Indiana.
Paul was the only player to score in double figures for the Illini, who shot just 32.1 percent. They were also outrebounded 38-26 but managed to pull this one out, anyway.
Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 16 points, while Andre Hollins added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Illinois was leading 32-22 early in the second half when Minnesota went on a 19-4 run.
The Gophers scored 10 straight, getting back-to-back 3-pointers by Andre Hollins and a three-point play by Andre Ingram to tie it before Nnanna Egwu scored on a put-back for Illinois. Minnesota continued to pour it on, though, and Austin Hollins finished the run by hitting three free throws to make it 41-36 with 8:35 remaining.
It remained tight right up until Paul hit that jumper at the end, sending a loud roar through the arena. All that came after a first half that was nothing short of ugly.
Paul scored 12 as Illinois built a 25-16 lead despite hitting just 9 of 24 shots, but as bad as things were for them, multiply it a few times for Minnesota.
The Gophers were 6 of 22 with 11 turnovers, and that barely tells the story. They got outscored 19-2 over a 12-minute stretch after jumping out to a 7-2 lead and went nearly eight minutes without a point.
Down 21-9 with 5:51 left in the half, Joe Coleman finally ended the drought with a jumper after Paul buried back-to-back 3-pointers, but that basket hardly ignited the offense for Minnesota.
The Gophers rushed shots. They also had trouble beating the buzzer at times, too, when they weren’t coughing up the ball. It didn’t help that Trevor Mbakwe picked up two early fouls and played just seven minutes in the half without attempting a shot.
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