No. 19 Illinois fends off Minnesota 59-51 Thursday at home

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Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) shoots past Minnesota Golden Gophers center Daniel Oturu (25) during the second half at State Farm Center on Thursday. Photo by Jonathan Bonaguro.

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff Writer

Another tight Big Ten game ends in favor of Illinois basketball (16-5, 8-2) as the team tops Minnesota (11-10, 5-6) 59-51 at State Farm Center for its seventh-straight win.

While sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu made three-straight free throws in the final minute to push the Illini to a two-possession lead, junior guard Da’Monte Williams sealed the win with his defense.

A steal, block and defensive rebound by Williams in the final minute and 15 seconds led to free throw opportunities for Dosunmu and senior guard Andres Feliz. Illinois scored its last nine points off of free throws and didn’t make a field goal in the last four minutes and 42 seconds.

Feliz came alive off the bench for the Illini scoring 17 points and adding eight rebounds. Freshman Kofi Cockburn, Dosunmu and junior Trent Frazier all reached double-digit scoring with 13, 13 and 10 points, respectively. Cockburn earned his ninth-career double-double with 10 rebounds.

Both teams struggled on offense in the first half – Illinois shooting 31.3 percent and Minnesota shooting 25.0 percent – but, the Illini pulled out of the first period with a four-point lead. Cockburn scored the last five points of the half.

Feliz led the second-half punch scoring 13 points after only having four in the first half.

Minnesota shot 39.3 percent from the field opposed to Illinois’ 35.5 shooting percentage in the second half; however, the Illini held a lead the entire half.

Despite the Golden Gophers’ losing efforts, sophomore center Daniel Oturu scored 20 points, his 11th game with 20 points or over.

With both Cockburn and Oturu on the court, the battle in the paint was never-ending. The Illini led in rebounding (45-36) and points in the paint (30-26).

Illinois will head back on the road to face No. 18 Iowa (15-5, 6-3) on Sunday. The Illini have won three-straight road games while the Hawkeyes have dropped just one game at home.

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