Henson watches as Illinois crushes Gophers
Champaign, IL (Sports Network) – Roger Powell, Jr. scored 21 points and Deron
Williams added 18 to lead top-ranked Illinois to an easy 89-66 victory over
the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Assembly Hall.
James Augustine contributed 15 with seven rebounds for Illinois (21-0, 7-0 Big
Ten), who beat the Golden Gophers for the 12 straight time and improved on its
best-ever start to a season.
With former coaches Lou Henson, Harv Schmidt and Gene Bartow watching from
courtside, the Illini moved to within four victories of the longest winning
streak in school history, achieved over three seasons from 1914-16.
Henson, who coached at Illinois for 21 seasons and led the Illini to their
last Final Four appearance in 1989, was greeted with a standing ovation and a
chant of “Lou, Lou,” from the capacity crowd.
Henson, suffering from a bout with viral encephalitis since last fall, used a
wheelchair to take the court to accept the ovation. He retired as head coach
at New Mexico State last week.
“We always want to get the job done, but it was a special night with the
(former coaches) in the crowd so we wanted to win it for them, too,” Williams
Vincent Grier scored 17 for Minnesota (14-6, 4-3), which fell to 3-16 against
No. 1 ranked teams. The Gophers, who had not faced a top-ranked team since
1993, last beat the No. 1 team in the nation with a 69-62 victory over
Illinois on January 26, 1989.
Illinois led by 21 points at halftime and were comfortably in front, 68-44,
with just over 10 minutes remaining. The lead continued to grow and reached 26
points, 80-54, with six minutes to go.
The Illini shot 60-percent (18-of-30) from the field in the first half,
including 7-of-11 from three-point range, to open a big lead. Luther Head and
Powell hit back-to-back threes in the early going and Brown added another as
Illinois jumped in front, 29-12, midway through the opening half.
Williams was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half and Head dunked off
a Minnesota turnover just before the break to give the Illini a commanding
47-26 halftime lead.
The Gophers made just 9-of-26 shots from the field in the opening half to fall
out of contention.
“You can’t play catch-up like that against the No. 1 team in the country,”
The three former coaches were on hand as part of the festivities celebrating
the 100th year of Illinois basketball. The Illini wore orange throwback
jerseys styled after the 1988-89 uniforms.