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.

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 rolling 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 while the Gophers rolled to a 59-36 victory at sold-out Williams Arena. An Illinois offense that entertained its fan base nearly all season produced a dud in a place they like to call Tubbytown.

"I don't know if we thought it would be easy,'' said Illini guard Trent Meacham. "We came in here and played pretty well the last couple of years. We made it easy for them tonight, and they made it really hard on us.''

Somebody find an exclamation point.

"I'm embarrassed that we came out here and did what we did,'' said Illini reserve forward Dominique Keller, who led the Illini with nine points.

The loss was the worst for Illinois since an 88-57 blowout at Indiana seven years ago. Illinois' scoring output was its lowest in Big Ten play since a 54-34 loss to Purdue 24 years ago. Illinois also saw an eight-game winning streak at Williams Arena ended.

With the league's best shooting percentage (47.9 percent) and ranking third in Big Ten play at 66.4 points a game, Illinois didn't have much trouble scoring this year. But the Illini shot 25 percent in the first half while missing all eight 3-point attempts and managed just 29.4 percent overall. Illinois finished by shooting 2-for-16 from the 3-point line.

Minnesota didn't even bother switching defenses. The Gophers stuck primarily to man to man.

"We've always had somebody make shots,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Tonight, we didn't. We led the league in field-goal percentage. You have to give their guys credit. I don't think anyone played well for us. That's to their credit. That's the best defense I've seen them play for an entire game.

"We came up here last year and played so well. We scored 84 last year and only 36 this year. Maybe they were too casual.''

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.

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).

"It's a learning lesson,'' Weber said. "We have to move forward, learn from it, get better in the next couple days and get ready for Iowa.''

Maybe the recent two-game sweep over Ohio State and Wisconsin at Assembly Hall went to Illinois' head.

"You've got to realize how hard it is and how tough it is,'' Weber said. "To be special, it takes courage and toughness. Now we have to come back. When you win another game, you have to realize the next one is going to be just as tough. That's what you learn. (The Illini) won a couple, maybe feeling too good about themselves and not ready to react to it.''

The Gophers (18-3, 6-3) enjoyed perhaps the most significant victory in coach Tubby Smith's second year on the job. Guard Lawrence Westbrook led Minnesota with 15 points.

"To break this 20-game streak was a burden off our chest,'' Smith said. "We feel good about it. We can build on this. We really concentrated on half-court defense, and we were successful. We're a very good defensive team.''

NOTES: Weber and 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.

Illinois report card

Front court: F

If Illinois wants to keep rolling down the stretch, Mike Davis must get back to full speed. The lead to the Sports Illustrated story on the Illini earlier this month, he was missing again against Minnesota. The Minnesota freshmen, Colt Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, didn't look like rookies against the Illini sophomore big men.

Back court: F

The three-guard starting lineup was 5-for-18 from the field and couldn't contain Gophers guard Lawrence Westbrook. Trent Meacham was the closest thing to respectability.

Bench: D

Give Dominique Keller some credit. He was the only Illini to shoot 50 percent or better. He was 4-for-8 from the field.

Overall: F

After losing to Michigan and Michigan State on the road in the closing minutes, Illinois found itself blown out by Minnesota, a team still rebuilding in Tubby Smith's second year at the helm. An Illini offense that looked so sharp for so long this season took us back to last season, when it was a nails-on-the-chalkboard experience to watch Illinois try to score. A home game against Iowa might heal Illinois' wounds.