The Minnesota defense shackled No. 19 Illinois while the Gophers rolled to a 59-36 victory at sold-out Williams Arena on Thursday.
Illinois' 20-game winning streak over Minnesota lasted 10 years and included four Minnesota coaches.
The run began with an upset by a No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, continued with a last-second shot by Frank Williams here that saved a share of the Big Ten Conference title in 2002 and -- remarkably -- kept going with three more wins last season when the Illini had trouble finding someone to beat in the Big Ten.
Sooner or later, it was bound to catch up on the Illini. It did Thursday, when the Minnesota defense shackled No. 19 Illinois as the Gophers rolled to a 59-36 victory at sold-out Williams Arena Thursday.
Somebody find an exclamation point.
The loss was the worst for Illinois since an 88-57 blowout at Indiana in the 2001-2002 season. Illinois' scoring output was its lowest in Big Ten play since a 54-34 loss to Purdue in the 1984-85 season. Illinois also saw an eight-game winning streak at Williams Arena ended.
The Big Ten's biggest surprise, Illinois hadn't been manhandled like this all year. The team's first three losses came down to the final minutes, but Minnesota enjoyed its most convincing victory in coach Tubby Smith's second year.
Illinois didn't have much trouble scoring this year, averaging 66.4 points a game to rank third in Big Ten play heading into the game, but Illinois' offense Thursday resembled something from last season.
The best shooting team in the Big Ten, Illinois entered with 47.9 percent shooting on the season, but the Illini trailed at halftime for only the second time all season after shooting 25 percent and missing all eight 3-point attempts. Minnesota led 22-16 heading into the second half.
Even though this quirky barn is one of the best home-court advantages in the league, Minnesota's defense played an even bigger role in Illinois' slow start. The Gophers rank second in the Big Ten in field-goal defense.
A 9-0 Minnesota run gave the Gophers a 45-27 lead with 7 minutes 50 seconds remaining.
Reserve forward Dominique Keller led the Illini with nine points. Illinois finished the game shooting 29.4 percent. The Illini were 2-for-16 from the 3-point line.
Illinois fell to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. The Illini slid into a fourth-place tie in the Big Ten standings with Penn State. It's hard to keep pace with No. 9 Michigan State. The Spartans won their fifth Big Ten road game by pasting Iowa on Thursday in Iowa City.
The only team without a Big Ten home loss, Illinois hosts Iowa on Sunday (1 p.m., Big Ten Network). Illinois began a stretch of four games on the road in the next six.
The Gophers (18-3, 6-3) turned the gym into Tubbytown. Guard Michael Westbrook led Minnesota with 15 points.
Illinois hadn't lost here since 1999. If a 20-game winning streak against a conference foe sounded like a lot, that's understandable. The streak was a school record against any Big Ten foe. Illinois had 16-game winning streaks over Northwestern (twice, 1947-55 and 1984-1991) and Wisconsin (1981-89).
The 20-game run over Minnesota ranked as the fourth longest nationally behind Oklahoma over Baylor (25 wins), Penn over Dartmouth (23), Texas over Baylor (23). Illinois' eight-game winning streak was one short of the longest opponent streak in Williams Arena.
NOTES: Weber and Minnesota coach Tubby Smith wore tennis shoes as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer weekend. A moment of silence was held before the game for North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow, who died after a 22-year battle with cancer. … Brian Cardinal, a former star at Purdue and now a member of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves, sat in the first row behind the Illini bench. Cardinal, who prepped at Tolono Unity, is the son of Rod Cardinal, the former Illini trainer who oversees projects within the basketball office.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.