By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Minnesota played one of its best games of the season while winning handily at Illinois last month.
After the Fighting Illini became the latest squad to knock off the nation's No. 1 team, the Golden Gophers may need to be at their best again in the rematch.
The No. 18 Gophers look to bounce back from their latest defeat and get a third consecutive victory over the visiting Illini in Sunday's Big Ten matchup.
Minnesota (17-6, 5-5) shot 52.9 percent, including a season-best 9 of 15 from 3-point range, and had three players score at least 19 points in an 84-67 win at Illinois on Jan. 9. Though the Illini were within two near the midway point of the second half, the Gophers pulled away while holding the hosts to 3-of-24 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Gophers were 15-1 after that victory but have since lost five of seven, including a 61-50 defeat at No. 12 Michigan State on Wednesday for their fourth straight road defeat.
"We still believe," forward Trevor Mbakwe said. "We've got five (conference) losses, but we still are going to win - and win out."
That mission begins against an Illinois team that rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to win 74-72 at home over top-ranked Indiana on Thursday. The Illini (16-8, 3-7) scored 28 points off 14 Hoosiers turnovers and shot 55.2 percent in the second half.
Tyler Griffey's wide-open layup with 0.9 seconds left made Illinois the fifth team in as many weeks to knock off the nation's No. 1.
"It's a great win, but (Sunday) we play in Minneapolis against a really good Minnesota team," Illinois coach John Groce said. "We're not absorbed with one game, win or lose. We've said that the whole time."
Illinois, which won for the fourth time in 12 games since it was 12-0 and ranked 10th, has also beaten Gonzaga on the road, Butler in Maui and Ohio State at home. Its only victory in four conference road games, however, came against a Nebraska team that sits near the bottom of the league standings.
The Illini have dropped 10 straight road games against ranked Big Ten opponents since a 63-56 win at then-No. 11 Wisconsin on Feb. 9, 2010. They've lost two of three at Minnesota, including a 77-72 overtime defeat last season.
The Gophers are 12-1 at Williams Arena, where they shoot 48.2 percent, average 75.7 points and hold opponents to 57.2. However, Minnesota must regroup after shooting 36.7 percent at Michigan State. Its starting backcourt of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman combined for 28 points on 10-of-34 shooting (29.4 percent).
Coleman scored a career-high 29 while Andre Hollins added 22 with eight rebounds and six assists at Illinois in January. Mbakwe matched a season high with 19 points in that contest but has totaled 29 in his last four games.
Mbakwe is dealing with a wrist injury but is expected to be ready Sunday.
Illinois' Brandon Paul (17.6 points per game), who scored 21 against Indiana, has averaged 23.3 in his last three versus Minnesota despite shooting 35.7 percent.
Updated February 9, 2013