MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota rallied from a six-point deficit with 3:57 remaining in regulation, then scored 10 of the first 13 points in overtime to defeat Illinois, 77-72, on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 14,625 at Williams Arena.
The win improved the Gophers to 16-6 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten, while Illinois lost its third straight game to fall to 15-6 overall and 4-4 in the conference. Minnesota, which has three wins against teams in the RPI Top 50 since Jan. 12, made up for an 81-72 loss in double overtime at Illinois to open Big Ten play on Dec. 27.
The Gophers' bench was instrumental in the victory, as it combined to outscore Illinois' reserves, 39-9. Sophomore guard Chip Armelin tied his career-high with 14 points and led the Gophers with a career-best seven rebounds in just 24 minutes. In all, 64 of Minnesota's 77 points were scored by underclassmen.
Sophomore guard Austin Hollins also had 14 points, including the final six points of regulation to send the game to overtime. Trailing 64-61 with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, Hollins drove the length of the court and rolled in a right-handed finger-roll while being fouled. His bonus free throw with four seconds left then tied the game, and Branden Paul's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark for the Illini.
Paul led all scorers with 28 points for Illinois, with 22 points coming during the second half and overtime. Paul also added nine rebounds, but he was just 1-of-8 from three-point range, as the Illini finished the game at 3-of-21 (.167) from beyond the arc. Meyers Leonard added 17 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocked shots before fouling out late in regulation.
Minnesota continued its late-game surge once the overtime period commenced, with freshman guard Andre Hollins scoring five points as the Gophers pulled ahead by seven, 74-67. Illinois struggled in the extra session, making just 3-of-10 field goals, including 1-of-6 from long-distance. Andre Hollins finished with 12 points, three assists, and three steals, while freshman guard Joe Coleman (11 points) was the fourth Minnesota player to reach double-figures.
The Gophers' bench combined to make 13-of-25 (.520) field goals, including 5-of-12 treys. For the game, Minnesota was 25-of-54 (.463) overall, including 6-of-18 (.333) three-pointers, but struggled at the free throw line by making just 21-of-33 (.636). However, when it mattered most, the Gophers were outstanding at the charity stripe, making 15-of-18 (.833) in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime.
The Gophers travel to Iowa City for their next game, facing the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday night. Tipoff at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.