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Indiana gets another shot at Illinois

Illinois' BrandPaul reacts final second second half an NCAA college basketball game Big Ten tournament against MinnesotThursday March 14 2013

Illinois' Brandon Paul reacts in the final second of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Chicago. Illinois won 51-49. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: April 16, 2013 4:24PM



CHICAGO — Indiana and Illinois have met six times in the Big Ten Tournament’s previous 15 years, with the Illini dominating to the tune of a 5-1 record.

The seventh meeting takes place today, after the No. 8 seed Illini (22-11) defeated Minnesota 51-49 on a jumper at the buzzer.

Sound familiar?

Illinois upset then-No. 1 Indiana on a layup at the buzzer in Champaign five weeks ago, as an unguarded Tyler Griffey scored the easiest basket of his career in a 74-72 Illini victory.

On Thursday, it was Brandon Paul doing the damage, finishing a 25-point game with a fadeaway jumper after a Minnesota turnover in the closing seconds.

“In those situations you’ve got to see what the defense gives you,” Paul said after he was the only Illinois player to score in double figures against the Golden Gophers (20-12). “I saw I had some space, so I let the shot go with the buzzer winding down.”

Illinois coach John Groce acknowledged there was some talk on the bench when his team got the ball back with 14 seconds left after Austin Hollins stepped on the sideline.

“I kind of knew what I wanted to go with there,” said Groce, who had two timeouts left. “I didn’t want to give them a chance really to make any kind of defensive adjustment. We just decided to ride with it.”

And the result is Illinois’ fourth win in five games when playing on the tournament’s first day.

The Illini have likely earned an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’re not approaching it that way.

“We’re preparing for the next game,” Paul said. “We got Indiana next and we have a mindset that this is it for us. Especially for our seniors, we got to play, go out with a bang.”

The Illini will likely need a better offensive performance today than they had Thursday. Paul was the only player in double figures for the Illini, shooting 10-of-16 from the field. His teammates were a combined 8-of-40 from the field.

“They flipped that switch on us in the second half and were able to get stops, kind of get us out of rhythm a little bit,” Groce said of the Gophers, who lost for the first time in 17 games this season when leading with five minutes to play. “They made some plays.”

Indiana coach Tom Crean is well aware that Illinois is capable of making some plays as well.

“They play with great intensity, passion and execution,” Crean said. “Their ball movement and spacing are very good.”

And he has a lot of respect for Illinois’ defense.

“They really get into you and play with quickness,” Crean said. “What they do is take the lane away from you very well.

“When you’re going against great talent, which this tournament is full of, you’ve got to stay engaged for 40 minutes,” Crean said. “Everything is a one-game season from here on out.”



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