Minnesota 56

(21-10, 10-6 Big Ten)

(1) Illinois 64

(31-1, 15-1 Big Ten)

    1:40 PM ET, March 12, 2005

    United Center, Chicago, Illinois

    1 2 T
    MINN 24 3256
    #1ILL 30 3464

    Top Performers

    Minnesota: V. Grier 24 Pts, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk

    Illinois: L. Head 14 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

    Head leads the way with 14 points

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois had its 14-point lead shaved to two with six minutes to go. But the top-ranked Illini weren't going to let this game slip away.

    They wouldn't add a loss to coach Bruce Weber's tragic weekend.

    Illinois (31-1) held Minnesota without a field goal for the final 4:05 on the way to a 64-56 win Saturday and a trip to the Big Ten tournament championship game for the third straight season.

    "We say we're a family. That's what we emphasized all year," said forward James Augustine, who was the first to put an arm around his coach after the win. "We're all with him."

    Weber coached the game less than 24 hours after his mother, 81-year-old Dawn Weber, died at a Chicago hospital after emergency heart surgery. He said there was never any doubt in his mind that he would be on the sideline.

    "I'm proud of the kids and happy to be back in the championship (game)," Weber said. "I don't want to be the story. The kids have got to be the story."

    The Illini wore black bands on their jerseys in memory of Dawn Weber, and the emotional drain showed early in what became a somewhat sloppy performance. They committed a season-high 23 turnovers and shot just 36 percent from the field.

    "We were probably feeling a little too emotional," said Luther Head, who led five Illini in double figures with 14 points. "We're feeling the same way he's feeling."

    The Illini got going midway through the first half and took a 14-13 lead on the first of Head's four 3-pointers. They used a 14-0 run to turn an 13-8 deficit into a 22-13 lead.

    Illinois led 30-26 at halftime and looked to be in control with 12:04 to go after Head's fourth roof-raising 3-pointer put the Illini ahead 49-35.

    But Illinois missed its next four shots and committed three turnovers, and the Gophers went on a 16-4 run.

    Vincent Grier and Aaron Robinson scored all 16 points. After Robinson started the push with a 3-pointer, Grier hit a driving layup, a free throw and two runners to trim the Illinois lead to 50-46.

    Deron Williams broke Illinois' drought with a 3-pointer, but Robinson hit another 3-pointer and Grier had a dunk that made it 53-51.

    "It's unexplainable," Robinson said of Grier. "You can't put into words Vincent's game. He does everything for this team."

    But Roger Powell Jr. converted a three-point play that pushed the Illini lead back to five, and the Gophers managed just three free throws down the stretch. Grier led the Gophers with 24 points. Robinson had 12 and Jeff Hagen scored 10 points.

    "We slugged it out toe-to-toe with them," Gophers coach Dan Monson said. "They were better but the margin is narrowing for us. We're getting better at the right time of year. How fun is that?"

    Minnesota (21-10) lost to the Illini 89-66 on Jan. 29 but finished the regular season with four straight victories and handled Indiana easily, 71-55, in Friday's quarterfinals.

    "Minnesota's a very good team, an NCAA team," Weber said. "There's no doubt about that."

    The Illini will face Wisconsin in Sunday's championship. The Badgers beat Iowa 59-56. The Illini have won 12 straight games at the United Center.

    Williams scored 12 points for Illinois, Augustine scored 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Dee Brown and Powell each scored 10.

    With about 27 seconds remaining and the outcome assured, Weber started walking along the scoring table to shake hands with Monson. He shook hands with every Gopher player, many of whom stopped to speak with him briefly.

    He got a pat on the back from Augustine, and then walked with Head to a postgame TV interview.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 56 64
    FG Made-Attempted 21-57 (.368) 20-56 (.357)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-17 (.353) 7-22 (.318)
    FT Made-Attempted 8-12 (.667) 17-24 (.708)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (0/0) 13 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 7 14

    2004-05 Season

    Jan 29, 2005 @ILL 89, MINN 66Recap
    » Mar 12, 2005 @ILL 64, MINN 56Recap