In the movie "Caddyshack", assistant greenskeeper Carl was given the assignment of getting rid of the Gophers. On Sunday afternoon, Deron Williams did what Bill Murray was unable to do, as the Fighting Illini defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 79-69 at Williams Arena. The win for Illinois was their 11th straight against Minnesota.
Williams led Illinois (15-5 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) with a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists. Fellow sophomore guard Dee Brown did his part with 18 points for Bruce Weber's squad.
Big man Nick Smith continues to put behind him the bad memories of the Wisconsin game and contributed 13 points. James Augustine was the fourth Illini to score in double figures with 10 points.
Freshman star Kris Humphries was the high-scorer for Minnesota (8-13, 0-9) with 23 points. Stan Gaines added 12 points and Aaron Robinson chipped in with 10 points, as the Golden Gophers failed to record their first conference win of the season.
On a cold Minnesota day, the Gophers came out hot in the first half and made their first seven shots from the field. After almost five minutes, the Gophers had a 22-7 lead.
Once again, the Illini were able to improve their defensive intensity and the Gophers began to miss some shots. After shooting over 70% in the opening minutes of the first half, Dan Monson's team finished the opening 20 minutes shooting 48.5% from the field. Illinois' tenacious defense carried over into the next 20 minutes as the Gophers shot 36% after halftime.
Luther Head and Brian Randle cleaned the glass for the Illini and corralled six rebounds each. Randle also led the orange and blue with three blocked shots. Williams and Brown each had three steals.
The Illini also benefited from the play of "bigs" Roger Powell and Jack Ingram. Powell scored eight points and grabbed five boards. Ingram played yet another solid game off the bench and added four points to the Illini total.
After earlier fears of not qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the Illini control their own destiny in the race for the conference championship. In the next week, Michigan State and Wisconsin travel to the Assembly Hall. The Spartans and the Badgers each currently have two Big Ten losses and the Illini would love to give both of them their third.