Michigan drops Illinois, makes case for top rank
by Mark Snyder, USA TODAY Sports
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – As the rest of the Big Ten plays one-possession games, Michigan’s eyes are on a few different “ones.”
Today, the immediate goal against Illinois was a 74-60 win, sending the Wolverines into a first-place Big Ten tie with Indiana, less than a week before their showdown in Bloomington.
On Monday, it may mean enough votes in the polls to become the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time in 20 years, to start the 1992-93 season.
For the fifth time in its six Big Ten wins this season, Michigan (19-1, 6-1) handled a convincing win, by at least 14 points.
Again it was the balance with four players in double figures, led by Trey Burke’s 19 points.
Illinois fell to 15-6 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten.
Illinois came out aggressive in the second half, attacking the basket early and getting Michigan’s lead down to four. Then a 9-0 blitz pushed the margin out to 13 with 13 1/2 minutes to go, showing Michigan’s firepower.
Michigan struggled shooting the three-pointer in the first half, opening just 1 of 8 from long range and the game stayed close as a result. But Illinois had big offensive problems, shooting just 34% from the field, leading to Michigan’s 35-27 halftime lead.
Though there was a lot of action around the basket in the first half, the teams combined for only one free throw.
The Illini were saved by Brandon Paul’s three three-pointers in the first half.
The pace was brisk so Michigan rolled in 10 players – four deep at center after Jordan Morgan rolled his ankle early – leading to a number of unique lineups.
Even though Burke struggled from the field early, Illinois’ run came when Burke was on the bench.
Mark Snyder also writes for The Detroit Free Press.