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Illinois bullies Gophers in return to Big Ten play

The Illini revealed a major flaw in Minnesota's 76-53 loss.
Gopher Basketball

The Minnesota Gophers have been a surprise this season, entering Tuesday night's game against Illinois with a 10-1 record. While Ben Johnson has done a tremendous job assembling his own roster, the Illini revealed a major flaw as they handed Minnesota a 76-53 defeat.

The Gophers will have trouble defending bigger players as they head into Big Ten play. With one player over 6-foot-10, players such as Illinois' Kofi Cockburn will be a major problem.

Cockburn bullied the Gophers in the paint and finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds, which led to a dominating performance down low. Overall, Illinois outscored Minnesota 42-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 52-26.

Minnesota also suffers from a lack of depth. Jamison Battle  and Eric Curry scored 10 points each but were the only players that finished in double figures. Even Payton Willis, who entered Tuesday as the team's second-leading scorer, shot 2-for-8 from the floor.

With their stars unable to connect, the Gophers didn't have anyone step up. Minnesota shot just 36 percent as team and 27 percent from 3-point range. The deeper Illini eventually outlasted Minnesota and took advantage of a gassed team in the second half.

These issues will need to get solved as Minnesota entered the grind of Big Ten play. Next up, the Gophers will head to Indiana for a Sunday morning date with the Hoosiers.

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