Brandon Paul hit the big shot Thursday afternoon in the Big Ten tournament.
It should surprise no one.
Paul is the go-to guy for the Illinois Fighting Illini. His team will go as far as he can take them, and where he took Illinois on this day was to the next round of the conference tourney.
Paul delivered the dagger shot in a 51-49 win over Minnesota, perhaps sealing Illinois’ trip to the NCAA tournament and essentially completing the collapse of a Minnesota team that never found its way during the Big Ten season.
“I didn’t want to lose. We worked too hard to get to this point,” Paul said in a post-game press conference. ”This team has so much character. My mindset was just to be aggressive. Coach told me to stay aggressive. I basically wanted to attack on offense and do other things. I’m more excited about I didn’t turn the ball over today.”
Paul finished his remarkable day with 25 points, including the clutch shot at the buzzer, and he was the only player in double figures for Illinois.
Illinois has had its share of enjoyable moments this season, but it has also endured a handful of difficult stretches.
In no way do I think Illinois is good enough to win the conference tournament, but I do think that regardless of what happens the rest of the week, Illinois probably deserves a shot at the NCAA tourney.
And just like on Thursday against Minnesota, Paul will have to be the one that puts Illinois in a position to succeed.
Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.