Illinois men’s basketball picks up fourth-straight win in conference at Minnesota

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The Daily Illini

Freshman forward Ty Rodgers attempts to block a layup against Pennsylvania State on Dec. 10, 2022. Between Rodgers and freshman guard Jayden Epps, the duo was responsible for eight points in a three-minute period during Monday’s game against Minnesota, each 100% from the field.

Illinois men’s basketball picked up its fourth straight win against Big Ten opposition on Monday night, beating out the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 78-60. Despite early foul trouble and some hot Gopher shooting, the Illini’s sharp second half led to the win.

A three-game win streak led head coach Brad Underwood to stick with the same starting core that got him those three wins. The backcourt of senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and freshman guard Sencire Harris has blended well with the presences of fifth year senior forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore forward Dain Dainja. In Minneapolis, this dominance continued another night.

Dainja got hot early inside, grabbing the Illini’s first four points. While the Golden Gophers kept up in the scoring department, matching the Illini blow-for-blow early on in Monday’s affair, Mayer and freshman guard Jayden Epps put the visitors up 13-11 seven minutes in.

The introduction of freshman forward Ty Rodgers breathed a new energy into Illinois’ offense, and the Illini slowly began to pull away. Rodgers and Epps combined for eight of 10 Illinois points over a three minute period, as each shot 100% from the field over this span of time. During this span however, Hawkins and Dainja picked up their second fouls of the day, forcing them to ride the bench for the rest of the half.

A rare cameo from junior center Brandon Lieb halted Golden Gopher momentum later on in the half with a block, before grabbing a bucket of his own just a minute later. This was his first Big Ten basket of the season so far. Lieb went on to score 4 points on the night, but at the time of his first basket, he gave Illinois a 25-21 lead with six minutes remaining in the half.

With just 2:25 left, Minnesota regained their early lead with a layup by Joshua Ola-Joseph before Mayer returned the favor at the other end with his first three of the night. The hotly contested first half ended on the same note, as Mayer’s second three of the night was drained to give the Illini a 35-32 point lead at the half, as the fifth year led the game in points with 10 on 50% shooting.

After two quick buckets out of the gate from Minnesota, Illinois went on a 12-0 run to start the new half. After five minutes, the Illini held a 47-36 lead, scoring all shots attempted over the course of the run.

Rodgers’ energy extended the Illini’s 11 point lead to 15, as a few stops and rebounds turned into points. At 10 minutes left in the match, Rodgers had four points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes — his best Big Ten tally of the season. With 9:45 left in the match, Illinois led 58-43.

Illinois’ momentum ended up being too strong for Minnesota, as the visitors grabbed their fourth straight win in conference with a 78-60 victory. While Mayer led in points, it was truly all hands on deck for Illinois with 10 different players contributing to the win. This win was the third match in a row where Illinois has had four 10+ point scorers.

Next up for Illinois is Indiana at home on Thursday night, as the Illini strive for five wins in a row.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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