Illinois 51 Minnesota 49: The Brandon Paul Show

USA TODAY Sports

The Illini advance to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament and Brandon Paul is the only reason why.

Let me start this recap off by getting this out of the way early: if the same Illini team that showed up against Minnesota today shows up to play Indiana tomorrow we are going to get blown out of the building. The Illini did not play well on Thursday morning. At all.

But they won!

Minnesota found both Austin Hollins and Trevor Mbakwe in foul trouble early and thankfully Tubby Smith subscribes to that "two fouls means you have to sit out the rest of the half" bullshit, because the Illini immediately took total control of the game for the rest of the first half. The defense was absolutely phenomenal because Minnesota really didn't have any options on the floor and just stood around passing the ball.

The problem is that, aside from Brandon Paul, the offense struggled and was never able to put Minnesota away while it had a chance.

That was the theme for the entire game.

Brandon Paul was the good Brandon Paul on Thursday. He hit 10 of his 16 shots, was 4-for-8 from three, finished with 25 points and had no turnovers. Oh, and he also hit this shot.

Bp3winner

Yeah, that one was important because, you see, with the rest of the team contributing just about nothing on offense, Minnesota not only battled back but took the lead in the second half and the Illini had to battle back just to get into the position to allow BP3 to hit that game-winner.

Thanks for stepping out of bounds, Austin Hollins. I'll send you a card.

But, yeah, overall that was not a good performance. If we're going to beat Indiana tomorrow then we really need somebody besides Brandon to step up.

Or Brandon can go off for 50.

Other Things

-- How bad was the rest of the team? Well, I mentioned Brandon was 10/16 for 25 points. The rest of the team made eight of its 40 shots and had 26 points. You didn't read that incorrectly, they made eight of their 40 shots. They were also 2-for-17 from three.

-- D.J. Richardson was 2-for-12 on the day, but that second shot he hit was huge as it tied the game in the final minute. Of course, had he hit a few of the ten shots he missed, we're never in that position to begin with.

-- Nnanna Egwu had four offensive rebounds, and it feels like every single one of them was huge.

-- It's only the first day!

Tempo-Free Stats

ILLINOIS

eFG%: 37.5%

Points per possession: 0.95

Turnover rate: 9.3% (this is a big reason why we won too)

OR%: 30.8%

Free throw rate: 17.9%

MINNESOTA

eFG%: 47.5%

Points per possession: 0.90

Turnover rate: 31.1%

OR%: 42.9%

Free throw rate: 35%

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