Illini Stun Minnesota in Big 10 Tournament
The Illini men's basketball team needs a good showing in this week's Big 10 tournament to be assured of a chance to play in the Big Dance. And their first test, against Minnesota, sure was a nail-biter.
Illinois and Minnesota gave fans an incredible start to the tournament. It was a tale of two halves: Illinois running away with the first half, and Minnesota coming back in the second.
It looked like the game was going to overtime, but with less than eight seconds to play, Brandon Paul sealed the deal for Illinois with a fadeaway two that clinched the Illini win. The final was 51-49.
After the game, head coach John Groce, who had two timeouts, said he was willing to watch the game play out.
"The big thing was to make sure he didn't go until between 5 and 7 on the shot clock--game clock, because we wanted to make sure that we got the last shot," Groce said. "Worst-case scenario, it went into overtime. Obviously he made a big play."
"I didn't want to lose, obviously," alternate Brandon Paul, who scored 25 points in the game, said. "We worked too hard to get to this point. Had some ups and downs, but this team has so much character, and the coaching staff, they got us ready for this one as they do for all the games. So my mindset was just to be aggressive."
All the win buys Illinois is another day. Tomorrow at 11 a.m., the Illini moved on to the quarterfinals to take on the Big 10 regular season champs and number one seed in the tournament, Indiana.