Illinois wins for grieving Weber, advances to Big Ten final
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Deron Williams had 12 points, five rebounds
and five assists to lead top-ranked Illinois to a 64-56 win over Minnesota
in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament from the United Center.
Luther Head led the Illini (31-1) with 14 points, while James Augustine added
11 points and 14 boards in the win. Illinois will make its fifth appearance in
the conference final on Sunday versus Wisconsin. The Badgers advanced with a
thrilling 59-56 victory over Iowa on Saturday.
Illinois, the Big Ten regular season champion and top seed in the tournament,
reached the tourney final for the third straight year and won it all in
The win for the Illini comes just one day after head coach Bruce Weber’s
mother passed away. Weber’s 81-year-old mother, Dawn, died Friday morning
after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured aorta.
“Basketball was a major part of her life,” Weber said in reference to his late
mother. “She always loved it.”
Vincent Grier put forth a valiant effort for Minnesota with a game-high 24
points and eight rebounds. Aaron Robinson chipped in 12 points and Jeff Hagen
netted 10 for the Golden Gophers (21-10), who have never made it to the
conference championship game.
After Rico Tucker’s layup staked Minnesota to a 13-8 lead early in the first
half, the Illini went on a 14-0 run for a 22-13 advantage. Head buried a trio
of three-pointers during the surge and his third trey capped the burst with 7
1/2 minutes to go in the half. Illinois then headed to the locker room with a
30-24 lead. Head had 11 points at halftime.
Augustine converted a three-point play and Head followed with a big three from
the right wing, pushing the Illini advantage to 49-35 with about 12 minutes
left in the game.
The Gophers then put together a big run to trim the deficit to 53-51 on
Grier’s dunk. Grier had 10 points in the burst. Illinois, though, countered
with Roger Powell’s three-point play and led 56-51. The closest Minnesota
would get was 56-53 on Hagen’s ensuing basket with four minutes remaining, and
the Illini held on for the win.
“They’re a good team,” Weber said of the Gophers.