Gophers spiraling out of control after 57-53 home loss to Illinois


The Minnesota Golden Gophers are in a downward spiral and there is no end in sight after Sunday's home loss to Illinois, 57-53.

The Gophers are now 5-6 in Big Ten play. At one time they were considered a team capable of garnering a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament. Now, however, they are closer to being a bubble team on Selection Sunday.

The latest loss followed a familiar script and had Coach Tubby Smith wondering if his Gophers could use the help of a psychologist to get things straightened out.

Minnesota jumped out to a 14-3 lead and seemingly seized control of the game, but a barrage of three-pointers by the Illini, including a buzzer beater to end the first half, gave the away team a 31-30 lead after 20 minutes of play.

Illinois didn't make a shot over the first 9:35 of the game. They went scoreless over another five-minute stretch from the 19 to 15-minute mark of the second half. But still, the Gophers failed to find their killer instinct and take control.

Minnesota's bad perimeter defense was exposed again as the Illini connected on 11-of-23 threes. The Gophers hit just 5-of-17 threes.

Trevor Mbakwe led the Gophers with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but he was frequently double-teamed in the second half -- which limited his scoring to five points in the second half.

Austin Hollins scored 16 points but Andre Hollins scored just eight points on 2-8 shooting.

Rodney Williams did not play in the game. He suffered a minor shoulder injury during practice. After the game he told reporters that his shoulder was "just sore" and coach Tubby Smith "didn't want it to get worse."

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