Paul’s buzzer-beater sends Illinois on to play IU

CHICAGO — Brandon Paul was the only player on the floor making shots for Illinois, so it only stood to reason that he should take the last one.

The senior guard, who has authored some of the most impressive scoring performances in the Big Ten in his four-year career, took the ball with about 13 seconds to go after a turnover by Minnesota, dribbled the clock down to about the five second mark, drove to the left elbow and pulled up for a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper to give No. 8 seed Illinois a 51-49 win over No. 9 Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center. The win sends the Illini to the quarterfinals to play No. 1 seed Indiana at noon Friday.

“In those situations you got to see what the defense gives you,” Paul said. “I’ve been in those situations before where the defense is flexing me, I hit an open jumper to win the game and stuff like that. But basically letting them come out, I saw I had some space, so I let the shot go with the buzzer winding down.”

Said senior guard D.J. Richardson: “I knew it was good. … Brandon was feeling it tonight, and we get him the ball when he’s feeling like that.”

Paul was the only one who was feeling it. He was 10-for-16 from the field. The rest of the team was a combined 8-for-40. He scored 25 of Illinois’ 51 points and he also had two assists against zero turnovers.

“He was terrific today on offense,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “He made big plays and he was very efficient Twenty-five points on 16 shots is very, very efficient. Most important, he handled the ball a lot for us over 36 minutes and he had no turnovers. He was a huge part of it.”

But even though the Illini didn’t get much production scoring wise from the rest of the squad — no one else made more than two field goals or scored more than six points — they did make a few key plays down the stretch to set Paul up for the game-winner.

The Illini took a 25-16 lead into halftime thanks to good defense, holding Minnesota to 6-for-22 shooting and 11 turnovers in the first half. Illiinois took a 32-22 lead with 16:40 to go. However, Minnesota went on a 16-2 run keyed by a pair of 3-pointers by point guard Andre Hollins to take a 38-34 lead. They would eventually build it to five on three free throws by guard Austin Hollins. Illinois fought back and cut the deficit to a point on a 3-pointer by Brandon Paul, but Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe made it 49-46 with 2:55 to go on two free throws.

Two possessions later, though, the Illini scored because they simply refused to give up on the play. On one play, the Illini grabbed four offensive rebounds before Richardson finally drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49 with 48 seconds to play.

Minnesota couldn’t make anything happen on the last play, and Andre Hollins turned the ball over, and Paul had time to take his game-winning shot.

It was likely that the Illini were already in the NCAA Tournament. They improve to 22-11, and of course, they have on their resume a win over Indiana.They beat the Hoosiers on a buzzer-beating layup by forward Tyler Griffey 74-72 on Feb. 7 in Champaign.

“Obviously our guys know that we competed with them in that game,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “Obviously it was a great game, but it has nothing to do with the last game. … Every game is independent of itself, and that’s the way it will be tomorrow.”


  1. Better to play IL than MN. Even though IU lost to both teams this year, MN gave us more trouble than IL. IU’s loss to IL in Champaign resulted from a second-half let down and a disastrous brain fart on the final play. Now it’s time to get a little revenge and prove that loss was an anomaly.

  2. Most likely after the game today Illinois has emptied their bag of last second miracles.

  3. Game was good. Only upsettling thing I’ve heard today is the B1G commissioner ‘excited to move these games to the East Coast, Washington DC’.

  4. More good news. Jonathan Duncan is the NCAA’s new Enforcement Chief. He has 18 months to “clean up the mess”. Course President Emmert is blameless and still in his position.

  5. Does the Big Ten Commish think that moving the games east will improve the live gate? Or is he so down on his knees to the TV media that ticket sales no longer matter? I know the conference has brought Maryland and Rutgers into the conference (which suggests the commish is a whore), but does he really believe playing the tournament at a site at least a thousand miles away from the majority of the schools in the conference is a good idea?

  6. TV market + exposure = $$$

    Been retired from the Corporate world too long, but thinking the words would be something like

    new market exposure

    and a bunch of other slang

  7. I’d travel to NYC and DC if the tourney was held there. They should rotate between Chicago, Indy, NYC and DC. We are a national conference.

  8. I wonder if they have the same plans for the B1G FB championship game also.

  9. Aruss, pretty soon, there’s only going to be three or four massive conferences in all of D1 college sports.

    When did the Big Ten become a “national conference.” The Big Ten has always been and should continue to be a Midwestern conference. Moving the conference championship tournaments/games to Baltimore and/or D.C. is going to get the commish in hot water with a lot of the traditional Big Ten fans. People want to be able to attend the games at relatively low cost and with minimal hassle. If it’s in Indy or Chicago, both cities somewhat central to the original Big Ten campuses, most Big Ten fans can travel to the games pretty easily and at relatively low cost. Plans to play the games on the east coast, if they’re legit, sound very similar to Calipari explaining his desire to play IU in a large large stadium at a neutral site (‘screw the students and fans on limited budgets, this is about maximizing revenue.”)

    If the commish is not careful, he’s going to alienate the fan base and wind up giving tickets to those games away for free to people on the street. I can see it now, “hey, want to go see a Big Ten basketball game? Yes, you know, the Big Ten! Here, I have ten tickets for you for free. Enjoy the game.”

  10. Agreed, Po. I like the ILL matchup much better than MN. We can put our B1G DPOY on Paul, and hope that Richardson doesn’t go bananas from deep in the last four minutes. Somehow, I just don’t see history repeating itself.

    As for the all the talk of the BTT moving to DC, I just don’t get it. I have to assume it’s part of a larger scheme to continue expanding our conference eastward. My immediate suspicion after Rutgers and Maryland joined was there must be something bigger in the works. Neither of those teams strengthen the B1G in much of anything other than lacrosse and field hockey. Something tells me that wasn’t the intent…

  11. Two of our four B1G losses were against teams we only played once – Illinois and Wisconsin. Let’s avenge one of those losses against the Illini and the other against Wisconsin in the next round.

    Go Hoosiers!

  12. Suspect we’ll see Virginia, perhaps and/or Virginia Tech, maybe Pittsburgh. Then it will be one wide path from Nebraska to the Atlantic. Surprised B1C did not make a bigger push for Missouri, or Missouri learned how to stack its hand and wait till the ante goes up. It also controls two time zones for TV scheduling purposes.

  13. Podunker is right. The Big Ten is a Midwest conference and should remain as such. How much more money is the B10 going to make by moving east? This sticks.

    The Big East is breaking up, why? They already had the big, east coast markets, what was their money situation? Is the thought to move in there now to grab what the Big East once had? Either way, I don’t like it. Any of that money really filtering down to the member schools?

    Not sure what to call this whole mess, but the word “whorish” comes to mind.

  14. I do not take playing a B1G Championship game(BB or FB)in NYC or DC every 3-4 years as a negative.

  15. MakMe, that’s a good point. If the north East Coast markets are that important why did the one major conference in the area crash and burn?

  16. When I think of all the people who complain about the obnoxious fans from Brand X Big Ten University I can’t wait to see the reaction when the New Jersey state university, Rutgers, becomes part of the standard rotation.

  17. O.K., I’ll come out and say it. The decision to bring Rutgers and Maryland into the Big Ten appears to be the result of a commish (and/or executive committee) who’s ambition and arrogance has gotten the better of his judgement (if he has any). It reminds me of a successful corporation that suddenly decides to merge with or acquire another corporation that does not compliment the buying company’s brand. The justification for this move is that other companies are merging and “we don’t want to be left behind.” Call it corporate egotism, call it arrogance, call it hubris, but often times, those mergers/acquisitions look good on paper but fail miserably in the marketplace. And often, the only beneficiaries from such mergers are the top executives that initiated the action in the first place. They make a boat load of money from increased salaries (their job is now a bigger job) bonuses, and stock options (not applicable for the Big Ten Conference) and retire or move on shortly thereafter in the lap of luxury. But what they leave behind is an enormous mess that their successors and shareholders have to clean up.

    I’m not predicting financial hardship for the Big Ten will result from the conference expansion, but I think the motivation for expanding with these two schools is based on the same motivations. Adding Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten does not compliment the Big Ten’s brand. In fact, these two schools dilute the brand. But to the people running college sports these days, the only thing that matters is money; their money.

  18. I’ve been waiting for a game like this. Reminds you of the type of game Knight’s team had with in 1976 with an undefeated season. During his dynasty there was a game at assembly hall when the Notre Dame was lucky to double figures by half time. The crowd was roaring to keep them at 9 points.

  19. Po, I guess you’ll have to wait and see. PSU was not welcome either. There is the only 1 outcome. Success for the conference.

  20. It’s not about sports with ND entry into the Big Ten. They don’t have the graduate research programs required for Big Ten admission. ND is a great undergraduate school but not so much at the graduate level.

    Believe it or not there are actually academic standards for admission to the conference and ND doesn’t meet them.

  21. Chet… Isn’t it due to a lack of any football tradition? The Big East was a mid-major in football.

  22. Yes the lack of FB tradition and it is just an unworkable model for success. Like a dog from every town the members were from all over with little in common except a ball. The BB schools don’t give a damn about the FB schools nor did the FB schools about their BB brethren. The priorities and obligations of the commissioner is a moving target at best and muddy waters generally. Everyone has different expectations and goals. Hell they turned down admission to PSU 25-30 years ago. A sure sign of the lack of forward thinking for strengthening the organization and its longevity.

  23. Yeah, I thought about that as soon as I posted. Football money is SO much more than basketball money that, I suppose, the Big East was doomed. Had ND joined as a football member the might have survived…for a while.

    Pretty selfish but I suppose it was in their own best interest.

    When Miami and Virginia Tech left it was just a matter of time. That being said, had they not joined the ACC it might be the conference dissolving. Before they joined it was FSU and the Seven Dwarves. Nobody but FSU fans cared about ACC football until then.

    Yeah, football money calls the shots. It’s interesting that the SEC isn’t anywhere near as lucrative as the Big Ten.

  24. Chet, you may want to investigate your statement concerning ND and entrance requirements for the B10. The B10 has always included members of the AAU (Association of American Universities) Nebraska was a member when admitted, they have since been ousted. Rutgers and Maryland are both members of the AAU.

    ND is not a member of the AAU. Here’s where it gets tricky. ND has been offered a place in the B10, in the past. If you investigate I am pretty sure that there are not any written by-laws of the B10 stating membership in the AAU is mandatory. If that was the case Nebraska would have received termination notice or given time to meet the requirements to be readmitted to the AAU. I don’t know if such a notice would fall under the scope of freedom of information umbrella, or not.

  25. But Nebraska is a viable research institute. I believe Chet is correct about ND not having graduate research programs. If ND wanted membership in the B1G there would be a way for it to happen I am certain.

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