Illinois Fighting Illini guard Brandon Paul (middle) celebrates with his teammates after making the game-winning shot as time expired in the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center. Illinois won 51-49. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
Don’t forget, boys and girls: It’s March.
Yet another dose of the Madness came out of the Big Ten on Thursday during the opening round of the conference tournament in Chicago.
With plenty of time remaining, Illinois’ Brandon Paul casually brought the ball up the court like he was out for a nice little Sunday stroll along Lake Shore Drive. He wasn’t, and he knew it. Crossing to his right, he buried a 15-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded to give his Illini a much-needed tourney win and to thwart the Gophers’ comeback attempt.
The win should solidify Illinois’ standing in the Field of 68, while Minnesota now sweats out three days of conference play around the country before Selection Sunday.
If they don’t get in, Tubby Smith will have plenty of chances in the NIT to coach his players on how not to commit 19 turnovers in a single ballgame.
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