The Illinois Fighting Illini needed a key missed free throw and two overtimes, but they were able to come away with a 81-72 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Tuesday night. Illinois led for most of the game before letting Minnesota get back into the thick of things late, making for quite the game as the teams needed double overtime to finish things off.
Illinois had a double-digit lead going into halftime and held that lead for most of the second half, but Minnesota made a key 10-0 run in the middle of the half to make things competitive. The Golden Gophers actually nearly won the game in regulation, but couldn't hit the necessary free throws to put things away.
With the Illini trailing 64-62 with just 16 seconds remaining in the game, Minnesota's Julian Welch had the chance to put things away with a one-and-one opportunity from the charity stripe. He missed the initial free throw, though, and the Golden Golphers were subsequently forced to foul Illinois center Meyers Leonard as he drove into the lane with just a few seconds remaining. Leonard knocked down both free throws to tie the game and put things into overtime.
From there, Illinois had a clear advantage. They had an opportunity to win the game on the final shot of the first overtime, but guard Sam Maniscalco missed a jumper. The Illini had little troubling running away with the game in the second overtime, though, as the crowd began to get into things. Illinois ended up outscoring Minnesota 11-2 in that second overtime to put things away.
It was a somewhat shaky performance by Illinois, but the team has to be happy to walk away with a win. Leonard was once again a key part of the victory for the Illini, scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking 5 shots in addition to knocking down those big free throws. Brandon Paul was also great for Illinois, putting up 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Illinois moves to 12-2 on the year as they bounce back from last week's loss to then-No. 8 Missouri. The loss cuts a six-game winning streak for the Golden Gophers; they're also 12-2 after 14 games this season. The Fighting Illini have won 23 of the last 25 match-ups between the two teams.