The Illini defense stymied Michigan’s offensive output in the first half, forcing the Wolverines to shoot a lot of long jumpers with the shot clock running down. It also caused Michigan to throw the ball away a number of times. The maize and blue had 15 turnovers on the game, four of which came in the first four minutes. On the other end, the regular season Big Ten champs (and especially Dee Brown, who finished with 21 points.) were on fire. Many of their points came on easy fast break opportunities that resulted from the turnovers. Robinson saw some familiar tendencies in the Illini’s defensive attack. “They play perimeter defense a lot like us,” Robinson said. “They make opponents rush their offense a little bit more than you want to. At the start of the game, they did a good job of covering up. We were able to come back in the first half and start working our offense. When you get started out that way, there's a lot of things they can stop you from doing on offense.”
Illinois parlayed their pressure D into a 15-point lead at one point in the first half. However, Michigan began to find their mark late in the stanza and went on a 16-9 run in the last 8 minutes to carry a 37-29 deficit into the locker room. “They're pretty good defensively,” Daniel Horton said. “They are very active, jumping in and out of the passing lanes trying to get you to make quick decisions, try to get you to turn the ball over. It worked on some stretches at the beginning of the game, but throughout the game we did a better job at finding guys for open shots.” Much of the reason they got those open looks was because of the effectiveness of Courtney Sims down low. The freshman big man had 10 points, 12 reboinds, and 4 blocks on the day. The inside out game led to a number of good look at 3’s and the Wolverines actually cut the lead down all the way to two points on a Robinson jumper with 14 minutes left in the game at 41-39. However, a turnover on an ill-advised pass by Robinson on the next possession prevented the Wolverines from having the opportunity to tie the game. Though they would continue to threaten the Illini, they would get as close for the rest of the game. Illinois pushed the lead back to 11 with 9:27 left and coasted all the way to a 74-60 victory.
The loss today harms Michigan’s chances of making the field of 65 in
the NCAA tournament, but Coach Tommy Amaker feels his team has earned the right
to be included. “Obviously no one's going to listen to what I say or what
I think, but we're a basketball team that's played a very competitive schedule,”
Amaker said. “We have 18 wins overall and finished .500 in our league.
I'm not sure the Big Ten Conference is so-called 'down,' that's just the lingo
in the party line. So we'll wait to see what happens tomorrow. I think we have
a great chance of getting far in the post-season. We'll be very proud of that
no matter what tournament we're selected to play in. I'm hoping we can keep
getting better as a basketball team. It's a nice opportunity to participate
in a post-season tournament and we're hoping for the NCAA tournament.”