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.