CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Luther Head and top-ranked Illinois played sloppily but gutted out an emotional win for coach Bruce Weber.
Head scored 14 points and nailed four 3-pointers as the Fighting Illini overcame 23 turnovers to defeat a game Minnesota squad, 64-56, to advance to the Big Ten Conference tournament final.
James Augustine added 11 points and 14 rebounds for Illinois (31-1), which will face either Wisconsin in Sunday's final for the Big Ten's automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The Illini lost to the Badgers in last year's title game.
The Illini were playing with heavy hearts after Weber's mother, Dawn, died Friday night from complications from a ruptured aorta. Weber coached the team because he said his mother would have wanted him to do so.
"It's been an emotional 24 hours for me," Weber said. "It's tough when you lose somebody. My mom wanted me to coach and my brother to coach last night. The last thing she told my sister before she went into surgery was not to tell me and not to tell my brother, (for) then we would worry about it and we wouldn't coach. That was in her heart. Everyone felt that we should coach the game."
"It hits close to home," Augustine said. "We have said we were a family all year, so it really hits close to home."
The United Center held a moment of silence prior to the game to honor Weber's mom.
"It hit me pretty hard, but then you start coaching and you get after it," he said. "I told the kids that I am going to coach hard, you better play hard. That's how she would want to have it."
Illinois held a 49-35 lead after a 3-pointer by Head with just over 12 minutes remaining but Minnesota stormed back, pulling within 53-51 on a dunk by Vincent Grier with six minutes left.
But Roger Powell Jr. countered with a three-point play with 4:36 remaining to trigger an 8-2 burst, which Deron Williams capped with a jumper for a 61-53 advantage with 2:25 left.
"Today we did not lose. We got beat by a better team," Gophers coach Dan Monson said. "I feel that those are the games where you can leave and not be happy but be proud of our attitude and effort. Those two things are not enough against Illinois."
Grier scored 22 points to pace the Golden Gophers (21-10), who helped their cause for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with a quarterfinal victory over fellow "bubble" team Indiana on Friday.
"(Grier) is a really good player, so I was just trying to contain him," Head said. "It is hard to guard him, so I was just trying to stay in front of him."
Minnesota jumped out to an 11-4 edge before Illinois countered with an 18-2 run to take the lead for good. Head had three 3-pointers during the burst, including one that opened a 22-13 advantage with 7:33 remaining in the half.
Neither team shot the ball well. Minnesota finished at 37 percent (21-of-57) and Illinois at 36 percent (20-of-56).
The Illini made 17-of-24 free throws to Minnesota's 8-of-12 performance, and held a 23-11 advantage in second-chance points.
"You have to play well against a team the caliber of Illinois," Monson said. "You cannot give them 39 extra opportunities to beat you, and that is what happened today. They had 19 offensive rebounds and we had 20 turnovers, and that is obviously too many extra chances when playing against a quality opponent."