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Key moment: The final moment was the biggest, right? After Minnesota failed not once—but twice—to inbound the ball, finally resulting in a turnover, Illinois took possession. With the last few seconds dripping off the clock and the game tied, 49-49, Brandon Paul drained a long jumper as the clock expired. That overcame a nice effort by Minnesota guards Andre Hollins (13 points) and Austin Hollins (16) and a 38-26 rebounding edge for the Gophers, who shot 55 percent in the second half.
Key player: Brandon Paul was the one and only hero for the Illini on this afternoon. The savvy senior hit 10-of-16 shots—4-of-8 from 3-point land—for 25 points. The rest of the team had 26 points. Take away Paul’s 10-of-16 shooting, and Illinois hit only 8-of-40 shots.
Key number: 6, turnovers for Illinois. Paul had none despite playing 36 minutes. He also had two steals and five rebounds. Basically, Paul had a “S” on his chest, not letting Illinois wilt after it lost a 25-16 halftime lead.
What’s next: Illinois limped into this game, having lost three of its last four games. Now, the Illini have some mojo heading into a second-round game vs. No. 1 Indiana. And, in case you forgot, Illinois beat the Hoosiers earlier this season in Champaign, 74-72. Most experts think Illinois already has an NCAA bid sewn up; now, it’s all about improving its NCAA seed. And, the Illini have the experience and ability to make a run here in Chicago. Hang on. This could be a fun ride for Illinois.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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