Michigan ends Illinois’ five-game streak
by Mark Snyder, USA TODAY Sports
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After a week off, Michigan was looking for the team it used to be.
The Wolverines still were among the nation’s best in ranking (No. 7) and respect (a potential No. 2 NCAA tournament seed), but the passionate group that could to push the ball and bomb opponents in the open court? That team was a memory.
So the coaches tried to remind them what they were missing with a few video clips during the bye week.
“This week, we did a good job of just having fun,” guard Trey Burke said Sunday after Michigan pulled away from Illinois for a 71-58 victory at Crisler Center. “Coach (John Beilein) showed us some old clips of us in the beginning of the year, before the craziness and stuff and how much we were having fun on the court. Us playing with so much intensity in practice, us realizing we need to continue to have fun out there allowed us to play the way we played in the second half.”
Facing those re-energized Wolverines (23-4, 10-4 Big Ten), Illinois (20-9, 7-8) was the unwitting victim.
The Illini’s five-game winning streak was smashed at Crisler Center, mostly because they angered the Wolverines before halftime by grabbing eight offensive rebounds and limiting U-M’s possessions. That led to Illinois’ 31-28 halftime lead — it was tied before Brandon Paul banked a three-pointer just before the break — and forced Michigan to get tough.
That’s not a trait usually put on the Wolverines, especially recently, but that’s what Illinois coach John Groce said repeatedly after the game, after watching Michigan blitz his team, 43-27, in the second half.
The Wolverines were in full-on attack mode — pushing the ball, holding Paul without another shot, and not letting the Illini get another offensive rebound after halftime. The trademark runs — starting with a 12-3 spurt, then later a 15-2 burst — were back, and Burke was leading the way.
After a seven-point first half, Burke exploded for 19 in the second half while still managing the game as well as ever, finishing with eight assists and only one turnover.