MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Frank Williams hit the go-ahead layup with 2.9 seconds left as No. 16 Illinois scored the final 10 points to defeat Minnesota, 67-66, and clinch a share of the Big Ten Conference championship.
Illinois (23-7, 11-5) tied Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State for the conference title -- the first time the Big Ten has had a four-way tie for first place -- and will be the third seed in this week's conference tournament.
The Illini, who started conference play 4-5, won their eighth straight game and earned their second consecutive Big Ten regular-season title in as many years under coach Bill Self.
"For us to start where we started and still get a piece of the Big Ten title is a big accomplishment," Self said. "It's a remarkable feat. Nobody can question our toughness anymore. I don't know if I've ever been in a situation that looked this bleak and still come out of it." The Illini went on a 9-2 run to take a 48-42 lead on a dunk by Robert Archibald with 11:27 left. But Travarus Bennett hit a 3-pointer to start a 24-9 run that was capped by a shot from the arc from Kerwin Fleming with 3:12 remaining for a 66-57 lead.
Cory Bradford countered with a 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining, and Archibald converted both ends of a 1-and-1 37 seconds later after Minnesota freshman Rick Rickert picked up his fifth foul going for a loose ball.
Bradford hit another 3-pointer off a steal with 17 seconds left to get Illinois within 66-65.
Kevin Burleson threw the ball away under Minnesota's basket after being trapped on the left baseline with 6.9 seconds remaining. Williams received the ensuing inbounds pass on the left wing, penetrated the lane and banked in his layup on the right side -- his only points of the second half.
"I feel for our guys," Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. "They played hard and put themselves in a position to win. But we couldn't take care of the ball in the last few minutes. Normally, in athletics, teams get what they deserve. I thought our guys deserved the win. They put it all on the line, but it didn't work out." Brian Cook tallied 22 points and 11 rebounds and Bradford added 19 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Illini, who had not won consecutive regular-season titles since 1950-51.
Illinois shot 48 percent (22-of-46) and limited Minnesota to 35 percent (24-of-69).
Minnesota (16-11, 9-7), which had a two-game winning streak snapped, was paced by 18 points from Rickert and 15 from Bennett.
The Golden Gophers face 11th-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten tournament Thursday. The winner takes on Illinois in the quarterfinals Friday.
"Coming into this game, we had the dreams of making it to the NCAA Tournament," said Gophers guard Michael Bauer, who had 10 points. "If we won the game today, we would have made a statement. Since we lost, we still have one more chance to make that statement. As tough as this loss was, in my mind we still control our own destiny. If we go to the Big Ten tournament and win two or three games, I think we have a strong case." The Illini scored the first two points of the game on a pair of free throws by Archibald, but the Gophers scored the next eight and led by as many as 27-14 on a basket by Jerry Holman with 9:05 left in the half.
Illinois rallied to climb within 35-33 at halftime.
The Illini found a way to win despite committing 20 turnovers.
"With the number of turnovers we had, we should not have been in this game," Self said. "But we made some great shots, and had some great stops. It was just a great game. I've been in a lot of crazy ones, but that one was one of the craziest." .