Blake Hoffarber connected on four 3-pointers and led Minnesota with 14 points, but a tough shooting day from the field and a dominant performance by Illinois on the glass proved to be too much to overcome as the Golden Gophers dropped their regular season finale, 67-58, Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Lawrence McKenzie and Lawrence Westbrook each added 10 points for Minnesota (18-12, 8-10), which will enter next week’s Big Ten Tournament as the No. 6 seed.
Trent Meacham led Illinois with 21 points and Calvin Brock added 17 to pace the Illini, who celebrated “Senior Day” with their 18th straight win over the Gophers.
Minnesota trailed by just one at intermission but quickly fell behind by double digits as the Illini used a 10-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Meacham to begin pulling away.
The Gophers, though, battle back, an made it a 1-point game with just over seven minutes to play at 46-45 Illinois thanks to a 16-7 run of their own that featured two 3-pointers by Hoffarber and one each by McKenzie and Kevin Payton.
But Meacham hit another 3-pointer and Brock added a basket to push Illinois’ lead to 57-49.
Two more triples by Hoffarber, the last coming with just 30 seconds to play, sliced Illinois’ lead to 60-55. But that’s as closes as the Gophers could get as the Illini were just good enough from the line down the stretch to hold on.
Illinois led 18-11 in the early going off a Brock jumper with 8:37 to play in the first half. The Golden Gophers fought back to take a brief 22-21 lead, but Illinois ended the first half with a 27-26 advantage.
Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field on 9-of-18 shooting in the first half, but connected at just a 35 percent clip after the break to end the game 19-of-47 from the floor.
Illinois also managed 20 second-chance points as the Gophers were outrebounded by a 45-19 margin.