No reward for U comeback

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2011 - 3:28 PM

After never leading in the first half, the Gophers extended the game twice before succumbing to Illinois.

view larger photos


CHAMPAIGN, ILL. - In the official records, the Gophers' 81-72 double overtime defeat will be recorded as a loss to Illinois. The team that dominated for most of the game won, and the Gophers moved to 0-1 in Big Ten Conference play.

With five minutes left on the final clock, the Illini's Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard -- who finished with 21 and 20 points, respectively -- fueled a 10-2 finishing run for the victory.

But in the come-from-behind effort against a team that has been nationally ranked this year, the Gophers won much more than they lost, showing in their scrappy, dramatic performance that, at the very least, they can hang in the Big Ten.

"I'm glad to see our guys have that fight in them, they have the toughness that we need," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "We just need to find ways to win like we did in games early in the season."

For 10 minutes it looked as if they might find that magic again and prove they are, in fact, the real deal. Faced with by far their most formidable opponent this season, center Ralph Sampson III -- who finished with a game-high 22 points and added nine rebounds -- and guard Julian Welch (15) came alive late and the Gophers erased a 13-point second-half deficit to scare Illinois in their own house before finally succumbing.

It was an encouraging sign for the Minnesota players -- none of whom were made available to the media after the game -- and a signal to the rest of the conference that the team is not the pushover some predicted.

"I'm proud of the way our kids played today, they fought hard, they had some chances to maybe put the game away at the end but couldn't at the end," Smith said.

The Gophers have been mostly solid in their nonconference schedule, building a 12-1 record and thriving during a six-game winning streak since their top player and leader, Trevor Mbakwe, went out because of a torn ACL. But without any major opponents on the schedule, many critics are skeptical of the Gophers, wondering just how much can be taken from the early victories.

All season, the Gophers have showed flaws. They have started slow, gotten behind early, gotten crushed by flurries of opponent three-pointers and shown their youth and rawness in mental miscues. Still, in every game except one -- when Mbakwe was hurt against Dayton -- they have found a way to get it done.

But the Illini are no mid- major team, and early on it looked as if the same old mistakes would finally bite the Gophers against Big Ten competition.

The Gophers never led in the first half, and though they hung around, they had enough mistakes to keep them three steps behind.

Their seven turnovers were converted into 11 Illinois points. Sampson went only 1-for-7 from the field. Welch's shooting was erratic. Five minutes before the break, the Illini went on a 12-6 run to go up 37-24 and held a 37-27 lead at the half.

But in the second half, down by 11 with 13 minutes to go, the Gophers staged a 17-6 run to tie the score at 54. Sampson reached down and found another level, helping the Gophers force overtime as the Illini started to look panicked and miss shots, and an Austin Hollins layup sent the game into a second overtime. But the Gophers looked like they ran out of steam in the additional extra session and the Illini, suddenly recharged, notched the victory.

"I'll give Illinois a lot of credit because we kind of came back and we had the wind at our back," Smith said. "We were playing pretty good and they responded."


    Up next: 3 p.m. Sunday at Michigan • TV: Big Ten Network (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Dallas 117 FINAL
Orlando 92
New York 80 FINAL
Toronto 83
San Antonio 87 FINAL
Houston 96
Miami 104 FINAL
Memphis 98
Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Utah 100
Sacramento 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Denver 112 FINAL
Golden State 119
Portland 99 FINAL
LA Clippers 89
Dallas 3 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Colorado 7
Carolina 3 FINAL
Edmonton 6
Columbus 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
UAB 11:00 AM
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Memphis 11:00 AM
North Carolina 11:30 AM
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Nevada 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 FINAL
Chicago 2
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question