Minnesota entered Tuesday night’s game at Williams Arena looking for its first three-game Big Ten winning streak in over three years.
Instead they ran in to a red-hot shooting Illinois team that continues to give the Golden Gophers fits.
Illinois (11-14, 3-9) shot 59-percent from the floor, a season-high by a Minnesota opponent, and methodically pulled away during the second half to hand the Gophers an 84-60 setback before 13,773.
It was the 18th-straight win in the series by the Illini, who haven’t fallen to the Gophers since the 1998-99 campaign.
Blake Hoffarber paced Minnesota (15-8, 5-6) with 11 points and Lawrence Westbrook added 10 points for the Gophers, who suffered their first 20-point loss in over a year.
Illinois, which shot a scalding 60 percent during the second half, got 19 points from Trent Meacham, who was a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range, and 13 points from Shaun Pruitt to pick up its first Big Ten road win of the season.
After a first half that featured impressive runs by both clubs, including a 9-4 spurt by the Gophers that sliced a double-digit Illini lead to a 39-33 bulge at intermission, Spencer Tollackson dumped in a layup for the opening points of the second half that made it a four-point game.
Unfortunately for the Gophers it was as close as they would get as Illinois unleashed a 21-4 run over the next nine-and-a-half minutes and never looked back.
A trio of 3-pointers by Meacham fueled the barrage as the Illini lead ballooned to 21 points at 60-39 with 10 minutes to go.
Illinois edge would grow to as many as 26 points in the final minute before Damian Johnson hit a pair of free throws for the Gophers with 13 seconds to play to provide the final margin.
Minnesota will try to bounce back on Saturday at Wisconsin, when the Gophers take their second shot of the season at the Badgers. The game tips at 1 p.m. (CST) and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.