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Illini stumble in Minnesota over the weekend

Illinois’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament took a major hit on Saturday as the team lost to Minnesota on the road, 79-71.

A string of poor defensive play and turnovers in the second half spelled doom for the Illini. After tying the game at 44 with 12:29 to play, the Gophers went on a 17-2 run, during which Illinois turned the ball over 3 times and missed 5 field goals.

The result was a product of the young Illini playing like the inexperienced players they are for a stretch and not having the depth (thanks to injuries) to overcome errors. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill each had 18 points in the loss, but failed to really exert any dominance over the game. Jaylon Tate (11 points) was the only other Illini who managed to score in double figures.

Minnesota, on the other hand, moved the ball with great percision, causing the Illinois defense to break down multiple times and leave the Gophers with open shots. Overall the hosts executed their game plan to a tee, which led to Andre Hollins breaking out for 28 points.

This loss means Illinois (13-8, 3-5) will have to knock off some heavily favored teams in its final 10 regular season games to make a case for the Tourney. Any repeats of Saturday’s performance, however, and Illinois may not even be considered for the NIT this year.

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