Michigan basketball (19-1, 6-1) had a chance to become the #1 team in the nation earlier this season and lost at Ohio State. They did not blow their opportunity tonight. The Wolverines stuck it to the Illinois Fighting Illini (15-6, 2-5) in Champaign, 74-60.
How They Won
In the 2nd minute of the game, Michigan lost starting center Jordan Morgan to a rolled ankle. Against a long Illini team this could’ve been trouble. John Beilein was able to call upon Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, and Max Bielfeldt to combine their efforts to fill the vacancy left by Morgan. The work but forth by Horford and Bielfeldt was particularly impressive since they rarely see vital playing time.
With the post secure, the rest of Michigan’s roster did their thing. Michigan’s big 4 all scored in double figures as they so often do. Trey Burke had a game-high 19 points. He was joined by Nik Stauskas’ 14, and a dozen each via Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Michigan used a few 9-0 runs to break away from Illinois and force them into an unwinnable style of frenetic play.
Brandon Paul scored 15 points to lead Illinois. By the game’s final minute he and his teammates were playing in front of a nearly empty Assembly Hall. Michigan continues to exert their dominance over lesser opponents but let’s not take a 14-point road win in the Big Ten for granted.
The Trio of Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, and Max Bielfeldt – This group stepped up in a big way. They combined for 17 points and 15 rebounds to ably replace Morgan. They were 7-12 from the field and went a long way toward proving the overall depth of the Michigan roster. Jon Horford played some of his best basketball as a Wolverine and is sure to see increased minutes as a result. Bielfeldt truly has a nose for the basketball as he corralled 2 offensive rebounds and a steal. And we all know what McGary brings to the table.
Trey Burke – Burke had 19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals in another strong all-around performance. He was just 7-19 from the floor as he continues to struggle shooting the ball in his last 5 games. He also turned the ball over twice on inbound passes, which is highly unusual from Trey. Expect him to quickly correct that and continue playing like one of the nation’s best players.
Glenn Robinson III – GR3 tied McGary for a team-high 8 rebounds on the night. He was his usual efficient self from the floor as he shot 6-8 to finish with 12 points. He also threw in 2 assists, a steal, and a block. A key play came early on when Robinson put the ball on the floor at the top of the key and drove to the hole for a contested layup. He hasn’t done that much this season as he quite simply hasn’t been asked to. It was a nice play to see him make as it will further shake up opposing scouting reports.
News and Notes
Michigan barely won the rebound battle, 35-34, and also edged out the Illini 12-14 in the turnover department.
The area of the game where Michigan separated from Illinois was in shooting the ball. Michigan shot 31-59 from the field (52.5%) while Illinois managed just 23-64 shooting (35.9%).
The Illini live and die by the three ball. Tonight, they died. They shot a miserable 6-27 from long range (22.2%). Michigan was a respectable 5-14 (35.7%).
Michigan’s average margin of victory in their 3 Big Ten road wins this year is 16.7 points per game.
Burke is shooting just 28-77 in his last 5 games (36%).
Michigan hasn’t been ranked #1 in the nation since the 1991-92 season. This program has officially come full circle since the Fab 5 were in town.
Despite Michigan likely earning the nation’s #1 ranking this week, Beilein has kept his team laser focused. Michigan knows that being ranked #1 in January means nothing if they experience another early exit from the tournament. This team is built for a Final Four. Anything short of that will be certain disappointment. To further illustrate this point, Beilein had this to say after the game: “I don’t think anyone next year will remember who was No. 1 at the end of January.”
Michigan will tee it up with Northwestern (12-9, 3-5) on Wednesday at 6:30 at the Crisler Center. The Big Ten Network will air the game. Michigan crushed the Wildcats in Evanston earlier in the year by a final score of 94-66.
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