ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan had been through this too many times already this season, in a battle late into the second half but failing to close the door.
Tuesday night in the Wolverines Big Ten season opener, Michigan did just that fighting back from a double-digit deficit to outlast Illinois 73-65 in overtime.
Junior Caris LeVert returned to his old form posting 19-points, five assists, and three rebounds in a team-high 42-minutes of action.
But Michigan also received key production from the unlikeliest of sources in little used freshman wing Aubrey Dawkins. Dawkins had scored just 15-points the entire season but Tuesday he caught fire burying 6-of-8 three-point attempts to finish with a career-high 20-points.
Fellow freshman Ricky Doyle proved tough inside down the stretch as well, finishing 5-of-6 field goal attempts for 13-points, sophomore Zak Irvin also scoring 13 for the Wolverines.
A sold out crowd at Crisler Center was ready from the tip and Michigan fed off that energy early, jetting out to a 7-2 lead thanks to jumpers from Irvin, Kameron Chatman and LeVert.
Illinois then went on a 16-6 run over the next 10 minutes of play thanks to three three-pointers from senior Rayvonte Rice, Aaron Cosby and Kendrick Nunn.
Down 20-13 Michigan responded with a run over their own tallying seven straight points as Dawkins knocked down his first triple of the game to go with a couple of hustle finishes inside from Doyle and senior Max Bielfeldt.
The Wolverines went cold once again though, knocking down just 1-of-5 attempts from the field over the final two minutes to trail 32-26 at the half.
In the second half Illinois picked up where they left off, utilizing a 12-6 run over the first seven minutes to lead 44-32.
Michigan continued to hang around with back-to-back triples from Dawkins followed by two in a row from Irvin, the Wolverines still trailing 50-44 as the Illini took a timeout with 9:30 left in regulation.
Dawkins continued to keep Michigan in the game with two more threes over a two-minute span to cut Illinois’ lead to three at 53-50, forcing another timeout from Coach John Groce.
A LeVert jumper followed by back-to-back lay-ins from Doyle inside gave Michigan the lead once again at 56-55 with 2:32 to play.
Doyle went on to score the final three points of the game for Michigan, one on a finish courtesy of Albrecht, also making one of two free throw attempts to tie the game at 59.
With the shot clock off Illinois had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, a Rice jumper coming up short to send the game to overtime.
Over the extra five minutes Michigan seized control with three-pointers from Irvin and Dawkins, free throws from Irvin and Albrecht then enough to close it out for the Wolverines.