Gameday preview: Illinois vs. Gophers

  • Updated: March 14, 2013 - 12:15 AM

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11 a.m. vs. ILLINOIS • BIG TEN TOURNAMENT

UNITED CENTER, CHICAGO: BTN, 1500-AM

Gophers at a glance: It’s a little tough to believe, but despite an 8-10 Big Ten record and bad losses at Nebraska and Purdue to wrap up conference play, the Gophers (20-11) are most likely safe to get a bid into the NCAA tournament. Still, they hope to create some momentum heading into the Big Dance. Step one is finding energy. The Gophers defense was a major issue against Purdue, but Minnesota also has been struggling with its shooting, making only 35.6 percent of its shots from the floor at Nebraska before managing only 29 percent in the first half at Purdue. … Trevor Mbakwe had been the team’s life saver toward the end of the season, but the senior finished with six points and 10 rebounds Saturday at Purdue after sitting most of the first half because of two fouls. … Julian Welch didn’t play on Saturday due to illness, but is expected to play Thursday.

Illinois at a glance: The Illini (21-11) are in a similar spot as the Gophers. They went 8-10 in the Big Ten after closing with losses at Iowa and Ohio State but still are most likely in the NCAA tournament and are playing to solidify that berth and improve their seed. In the past two games, Illinois has shot only 31.6 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three-point range. For a team that relies heavily on its outside shot, that spells trouble. … The last time these two teams met, the Illini shot just 36 percent from the floor but still won (the Gophers made shot only 38 percent in that meeting). Illinois also made 11 three-pointers in that game. … Joe Bertrand missed the season finale because of a shoulder injury but is expected to play.

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