Nunn scores 25, Illinois beats Minnesota 84-71
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) In a matter of minutes, Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn helped turn the game around for his team.
He scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half as Illinois silenced Minnesota 84-71 on Sunday.
Malcolm Hill added 22 points with seven rebounds and five assists. The duo combined to outscore Minnesota 33-31 in the second half.
Illinois (13-16, 5-11 Big Ten) shot 73.9 percent from the field in the second half, using a 29-8 run to open up the lead and run away with the game.
''I love the response that I saw,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. ''Obviously, we didn't play well in the first half.''
Minnesota (8-20, 2-14) led the entirety of the first half.
But the Illini had nine steals in the second half to turn it around.
''Our defense jumpstarts our offense,'' Hill said.
The Golden Gophers were playing without leading scorer Nate Mason (13.8 points per game), as well as guards Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer, who all missed Sunday's game for a violation of team rules.
''Today was unfortunately not as much about wins and losses but more about the culture of our program,'' said Minnesota coach Rich Pitino. ''It was about making sure our guys understand that this thing is bigger than just basketball and we're going to do what we believe is right.''
Mason has played more minutes than any Golden Gopher this season (averaging 32.6).
Pitino said it was ''challenging'' to adjust to losing three guards prior to the game.
Jordan Murphy stepped up early for the Gophers, putting up 17 points and eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes. But Illinois held the freshman to five points in the second half while he turned the ball over six times. Murphy ended the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Minnesota used an 11-0 run to open the game and jump out to a 40-32 halftime lead.
Stephon Sharp had a career-high 19 points, while Joey King added 17 for Minnesota before fouling out with 5:11 left.
Illinois freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands had 18 points in 22 minutes, going 5 for 6 from 3-point range.
Minnesota: Murphy was only one of two Golden Gopher players averaging better than 5.4 points per game after the announcement earlier that Mason, McBrayer and Dorsey would miss Sunday's contest. Sharp came into Sunday's game with four points in 11 games.
Illinois: Hill was coming off a season-low five points in a loss to No. 18 Indiana. The junior guard leads the Illini in points (18.1 ppg), rebounds (6.5 rpg), and assists (3.4 apg), and is the Big Ten's third-best scorer.
FULL PITINO STATEMENT ON SUSPENSIONS
''Obviously culture and doing what's right is extremely important to myself and to our staff and to our players. I wake up every day and I'm extremely grateful of the opportunity that I have to coach in an awesome basketball conference and coach in a place I consider to be my dream job. We're going to do things the right way. Tonight wasn't about wins and losses, it was about making sure our guys understand that this thing is bigger than just basketball and we're going to do what we believe is right. Unfortunately, you may lose the battle but you're going to win the war. Today was unfortunately not as much about wins and losses but more about the culture of our program and that's something that we work at every single day and it's extremely important to what we're all about.''
Illinois visits No. 10 Maryland on Wednesday.
Minnesota hosts Wisconsin on Tuesday.