Maize-and-Blue-collar Wolverines get even with Illini
Ann Arbor — Ten days ago, Illinois had its way with Michigan.
The Fighting Illini scored at will and ran the Wolverines out of the building before adding salt to the wound by referring to them as a “white-collar team.”
For Saturday’s rematch, Michigan donned their road blue jerseys and used a blue-collar effort on defense, forcing 17 turnovers to get its revenge with a 66-57 win at Crisler Center.
D.J. Wilson had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead Michigan (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten). Zak Irvin added 15 points and Derrick Walton Jr. recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
After allowing Illinois (12-8, 2-5) to shoot a season-high 64.2 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from 3-point range in the first meeting, Michigan clamped down defensively and held the Fighting Illini to 45.8 percent (22-for-48) from the field and 16.7 percent (2-for-12) from beyond the arc.
“I thought that was as hard as we've played on defense all year,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We really challenged them to take away their 3-ball game. They didn't have any at halftime. We challenged our players to not let them have second-chance points, which they had at their place, and let the offense take care of itself. It wasn't a great offensive night but it still gets a ‘W.’”
After taking a 10-point lead into halftime, Michigan took advantage of four consecutive Illinois turnovers to add some separation with an 11-0 run for a 45-26 cushion with 15:31 to play.
Wilson started the flurry with a free throw, Irvin had a steal and fast-break dunk, Walton added a 3-pointer and three-point play and Wilson capped it with an offensive putback off his own miss.
Illinois cut the deficit to 15 twice, the last on a Kipper Nichols layup to make it 54-39 with 9:23 to go but the Fighting Illini missed their next seven field goals and were held scoreless over the next four-plus minutes.
The Wolverines effectively put the game out reach with six straight points on a Moritz Wagner layup, Wilson dunk and Irvin layup to push it to 60-39 with 5:57 remaining before things turned ugly over the final five minutes.
Malcolm Hill (16 points) scored seven straight and Te’Jon Lucas had eight straight points — a three-point play, 3-pointer and two free throws – to trim it to 66-55 with 19 seconds left but it was too little, too late as Wilson, Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Walton combined to go 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:40 to seal it.
“We felt like we didn't play our game, our style of basketball when we played them at Illinois,” Irvin said. “We wanted to be able to change that and we did.
“I think (defensively) we were making it a little bit harder for them to get into their sets. Push them out a little bit wider, start their offense farther from the basket and that's been able to help us.”
Both teams attacked one another from the tip, with the first 16 points of the game being scored in the paint. Michigan had layups from Irvin, Abdur-Rahkman and Mark Donnal and a hook from Wilson to knot it at 8 with 16:21 left in the first half.
The Wolverines rattled off eight straight points with 3-pointers by Wilson and Robinson sandwiched around Wilson’s putback dunk to take a 17-10 lead at the 11:28 mark.
After Illinois’ Leron Black stopped spurt with baby hook a minute later, both teams played sloppy and failed to score over next three minutes. Wilson ended the drought with an offensive putback and followed that with a three-point play off another tip-in to give Michigan a 22-13 advantage with 6:01 left in the half.
"I thought they beat us up pretty good on the glass and obviously D.J. Wilson spearheaded that,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I thought he was absolutely terrific today. … He hurt us on the glass and assuming that none of his five assists attributed to 3s, he basically produced 29 points minimum for their team with his assists and his scoring. That's right at probably half of their production.
“His energy level at the backboard, his willingness to make the extra pass and make his team better, I just thought he was absolutely terrific in the game. I thought he was a real difference."
Michigan’s double-digit lead was short-lived as Illinois scored five straight on a Tracy Abrams jumper and Mike Thorne Jr.’s three-point play cut it to 22-18 roughly 2 minutes later.
The Wolverines closed out the half on a 12-6 run with seven points by Irvin — two free throws, a layup and a 3-pointer — a 3-pointer by Wagner and a Walton step-back jumper with 11 seconds remaining to reclaim a double-digit lead, 34-24, at the break.
“They put it to us and all the remarks after the (first) game, we had a chip on our shoulder and came out with an edge,” Wilson said. "I think we weren't the white-collar team today."