Illinois Pulls Away From U-M In OT, Wins 64-52

Kendrick Nunn scored 21 points for Illinois, which outscored Michigan 14-2 in overtime to win 64-52.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Down by three to Michigan late Thursday night, Illinois needed the ball and they needed a basket.

Rayvonte Rice pulled down a tough rebound, providing the ball, and Kendrick Nunn found the basket -- a 3-pointer to tie the game at 50 and force overtime. From there, the Illini made it look easy, finishing on a 21-2 run and dominating the overtime in a 64-52 win.

It was a fourth-straight win for Illinois (17-8, 7-5 Big Ten), trying to write itself back into the post-season script after a series of injuries and off-court issues that left them short-handed.br>
Illinois' late jolt, starting with Michigan up 50-43 with just over three minutes left in regulation, was a product of grit, Illini coach John Groce said.

"When there's three minutes to go and you're down by seven, you've got to go now," Groce said. "To close the game on a 21-2 run, it wasn't necessarily about execution, it was about heart."

It was the fourth straight loss for the stunned Wolverines (13-12, 6-7). Coach John Beilein said his team just lacked the depth and talent to hold on for a whole game.

"We're not great at anything right now, and sometimes that gets exposed in games," Beilein said.

Nunn's 21 points led Illinois.

The Illini trailed the Wolverines much of the night but scored the final seven points of regulation and willed the game to overtime with tough defense.

From there Nunn scored four of Illinois' first six overtime points. The first two gave the Illini their first lead since the first half, 52-50. The second two all but put the game out of reach of the reeling Wolverines, 56-50.

Rice played for the first time since Jan. 3. He had been out with a broken hand and a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. He scored just 4 points but had a key steal to send the game to overtime.

One question for Illinois was how Rice would fit back into a lineup that's learned to live -- and win -- without him.

Rice is the team's leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points. In his absence, the Illini went 6-3, and Malcolm Hill and Nunn picked up the scoring slack.

"I thought he tried to fit in and help us win, and boy did he do that," Groce said.

Illinois guard Aaron Cosby, suspended with Rice Jan. 31, remains suspended, Groce said.

Starting with Nunn's free throws and a bucket from center Nnanna Egwu, his first points of the night, the Illini owned the overtime.

They outscored Michigan 14-2 over those final five minutes, energizing a loud, sellout crowd and stunning the Wolverines.

Michigan's only overtime points came on a pair of free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with 13 seconds to play.

Ahmad Starks scored 12 points, nine of them in Illinois' 20-point first half, when few of his Illini teammates could hit much of anything. Hill added 11 and Egwu had a game-high 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Albrecht led Michigan with 13 points. Max Bielfeldt added 12 off the bench. The Wolverines got 21 bench points.

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TIP-INS

Michigan: Entering play Thursday, Michigan had won eight straight against Illinois, including three in a row in Champaign.

Illinois: In nine games without Rice, Hill and Nunn scored 52.9 percent of Illinois' points.

NEW LOOKS

Both teams had far different looks on the court Thursday than they did for Michigan's 73-65 overtime win in their last meeting, Dec. 30 at Ann Arbor. Illinois' Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby combined for 15 points and 13 rebounds in 65 minutes in that game. Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert had 19 points and nine boards between them in their combined 69 minutes that day.


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