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Morning Box Score: Illinois Holds Off Minnesota in Big Ten Opener

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 28, 2011 4:15PM

2011_11_15_illinois.jpg Illinois 81, Minnesota 72

If last night's Big Ten opener against Minnesota is any indication, Illinois is in for a long haul in conference play. The Illini and Golden Gophers needed double overtime at Assembly Hall to determine a winner. Brandon Paul scored on a breakaway dunk after stealing the ball from Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III to give Illinois a lead they wouldn't give up, and Meyers Leonard scored on a layup later to put the game away for the Illini. Leonard tallied his third straight double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Paul led Illinois with 21 points, while Sampson led all scorers with 22.

Illinois had a 13-point lead halfway through the second half, but Minnesota rallied, tied the game on a trey from Julian Welch with a little over six minutes to play, and had a two-point edge before a pair of Leonard free throws forced the first overtime.