Illinois nearly blew a 12 point lead, watching as the Gophers went on a big second half run to take the lead late, but Brandon Paul was there to save the day.
After Illinois somehow managed to get three offensive rebounds on one possession off of missed threes, DJ Richardson knocked down his third chance, tying the game at 49 with 44 seconds left. After a sterling defensive stand, the Illini got the ball back, setting up Paul’s game-winner:
Oh, Gus, how we’ve missed those golden pipes.
What’s more important, however, is that Illinois and Minnesota might as well be carbon copies of one another. Both were sensational to start the season. Both had a truly putrid stretch in the middle of the year, which was followed up by a win over Indiana and then another rough stretch to close out the regular season.
As ugly as some of the basketball has been, neither team was ever in any real danger of missing the NCAA tournament.
But when you’re playing in the Big Ten and have seen a top 15 ranking next to your name, simply sneaking into the NCAA tournament isn’t going to make many people happy. After yet another poor performance in February, Tubby Smith might need to string together a run to the Sweet 16 if he wants to do away with the speculation about his job status.
Making the tournament and being a factor in the tournament are two different things.
(Video via TBL)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.