Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 9, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten tourney tipped off Wednesday afternoon with No. 12 Illinois playing No. 13 Minnesota, two programs whose seasons never got on track.

[ MORE: View our Big Ten tournament central page ]

The Illini have had to deal with injuries that have proven ruinous, while the Gophers have been impacted by youth and suspensions that effectively torpedoed any hopes they had for success.

It was all Illinois at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, though, as the Fighting Illini rolled to a commanding 85-52 victory to advance to play No. 5 Iowa on Thursday.



Top star: Malcolm Hill, Illinois. Who else, right? The Illini?s Mr. Do-it-All had 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in another display of his versatility.

Top stat: 15-4, Illinois improved its record to 15-4 in Big Ten tourney opening games, the best clip in the event's 19-year history.

Top stat, Part II: Illinois hit a Big Ten tournament record 14 3-pointers, shooting 53.8 percent from distance.

Top stat line: Michael Finke, Illinois. He scored 17 points in 19 minutes, hitting 6-of-10 shots with four rebounds.

Top dunk: Minnesota?s Charles Buggs jetted in from the right wing with a loose ball and sailed high for a one-handed flush jam that would have bought a tear to Clyde Drexler?s eye.

It was over when: Minnesota got off the bus. Well, not really. But this was a woefully undermanned Gopher team with just five scholarship players and three walk-ons. The last time out, Minnesota lost to previously Big Ten-winless Rutgers by 23 points. Illinois built a 38-22 halftime lead and never looked back, holding a 37-point advantage at one point in cruising to victory as the Gophers had 15 turnovers and only seven assists.

Did you see this? Khalid Lewis had a pass you'll see on a lot of highlight shows. Watch it, and enjoy. Then, watch it again.

Notable: Illinois has the second-most Big Ten tourney wins with 26. ? The Illini are 10-9 in tourney games in Indy. ? Illinois is 6-0 vs. Minnesota in the Big Ten tourney. ? Illinois will play No. 5 seed Iowa tomorrow.


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