MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Illinois displayed the ingredients for success that have been missing so much this season, using grit, poise and resiliency to prevail in overtime.
Maybe Minnesota will do that someday, too.
Malcolm Hill had 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead a late surge by the Fighting Illini for a 76-71 victory over the Golden Gophers on Saturday night to end an eight-game losing streak on the road.
“I loved the look in their eyes,” coach John Groce said.
Maverick Morgan added 14 points, Kendrick Nunn scored 13 points and Michael Finke grabbed 16 rebounds for the Illini (10-10, 2-5 Big Ten), who used a 16-0 run over a 5:28 stretch that started in the closing minutes of regulation.
“We kept our composure and the belief that we could win the game,” Hill said.
The Gophers (6-14, 0-8) haven’t had that. They lost their ninth straight game, despite 20 points by Joey King and 19 points from Nate Mason.
“I think in overtime we just were a little shocked. I definitely thought we had it, but it was our first time playing with the lead in a while, and we made a few mistakes,” said King, who kicked himself for not leading a regroup of his teammates for the 5-minute extra session.
King also took the blame for the last play in regulation, when Mason dribbled the clock down and stepped back for an NBA-range 3-pointer from the wing that bricked off the rim. King said he was supposed to start at the top of the key instead of the corner, which didn’t give Mason enough space.
So, despite limiting the Illini to a mere seven points over the last 10-plus minutes of the second half, the Gophers headed to overtime. And the Illini took charge, delighting the members of the Orange Krush student section who took a road trip from Illinois.
“This was the most composed we’ve played as a team all year. We didn’t let anything bother us,” Finke said.
The last time Illinois won on the opponent’s home floor was Feb. 7, 2015, at Michigan State.
Minnesota tied a program record with 36 attempts from 3-point range, making 11. King went 5 for 14, and Mason was 5 for 10. The Illini packed in their zone defense, and Pitino was disappointed Mason and the other guards didn’t try to attack it more with the ball.
The Illini streaked their way through this one, with spurts of 13-0 and 6-0 in the first half and then a 10-0 run midway through the second half that pushed their lead to 53-46, their biggest of the game.
Mason scored 11 straight points for the Gophers to give them the lead back. The Illini committed a couple of costly turnovers in the closing minutes and were in dire need of Nunn’s clutch 3-pointer with 1:05 left that cut the lead to 60-58 right after Dupree McBrayer was called for carrying.
Nunn then fouled McBrayer, but he missed the one-and-one free throw. The Gophers were 6 for 12 from the foul line, and coach Richard Pitino said he thought the pressure to finally get a win played a part in the misses.
“It’s tough. You’re working hard. You’re playing hard. You want to win. And you’re just not finding a way to do it,” Pitino said.
OVER THE HILL
Hill, a junior, became the 47th player in program history to pass the 1,000-point mark for his career. He dribbled the ball out of bounds with 3:22 left and fouled King with 2:03 remaining in regulation, before King missed one of two foul shots. But Hill came back with the free throws that tied the game at 60 with 32 seconds left in regulation and pitched in nine points in overtime.
“It’s what great players do. Things don’t always go your way. I loved his response today. I was very proud of him,” Groce said.
Jordan Murphy, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, made a layup with 4:03 left in regulation to give the Gophers a 59-55 lead. But that was their only field goal until King’s late layup ended a stretch of 7:56 without a basket.
Illinois: Mike Thorne Jr., who returned from a knee injury Tuesday at Indiana, was back on the bench in a sweatsuit after experiencing some pain after practice.
Minnesota: This was the fourth straight Saturday game at Williams Arena. This was also last weekend home game of the season.
Illinois plays at Ohio State on Thursday.
Minnesota hosts Purdue on Wednesday.
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