No. 2 Michigan 74, UI 60: 'They're really good'
CHAMPAIGN — Early in the second half of Sunday’s game between Michigan and Illinois, Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas buried a three-pointer in front of the fans making up the Orange Krush student section, many of whom were wearing neckties over their orange T-shirts to support a Coaches vs. Cancer promotion.
Stauskas turned toward the students as the shot fell through the net, talked some trash, then continued back to the defensive end.
The second-ranked Wolverines displayed swagger and plenty of talent in running away from the Illini 74-60 on Sunday at the Assembly Hall.
And when the new polls are released today, they’ll have a No. 1 ranking to go with their moxie and ability.
“I think they’re really good, obviously. They’re really good,” said Illinois coach John Groce, who wore orange and blue Nike Air Force 1 sneakers with his suit Sunday for the Coaches vs, Cancer cause. “They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
The plan coming in for Illinois (15-6, 2-5 Big Ten) was to make National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke work hard to produce. The Illini did that as the point guard (five assists, five rebounds) needed 19 shots to get his 19 points.
But the supporting cast hurt Illinois and had the orange-clad fans racing to the exits with three minutes left in the game.
“Stauskas (14 points) was terrific, Glenn Robinson (12 points, seven rebounds) made plays,” Groce said.
Michigan’s balance — Tim Hardaway Jr. added 12 points and three steals — to go along with an elite playmaker at point guard is why they’ll be voted as the best team in the country today.
But atop the polls not even midway through the conference slate means little to the Wolverines (19-1, 6-1).
“It’s Jan. 27 and not one of you can remember who was No. 1 last Jan. 27. To our team, it does not make a big difference,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said. “I’m sure to a lot of fans at water coolers and coffee shops and people that love Michigan and hate Michigan, that’s probably something they hate or they love right now.”
For the Illini on Sunday, the combination of playing an elite opponent and not shooting well (37 percent from the floor, 23 percent from three-point range) was a recipe for disaster.
Brandon Paul led the way with 15 points, D.J. Richardson (seven rebounds) had 12 and Tracy Abrams had 10 for Illinois. But 15 turnovers didn’t help matters.
“You’ve got to throw a couple in. We’re in here diagnosing this and that. We had some good looks, we did,” Groce said. “I thought we executed really well for the first 30 minutes and we got what we wanted and we didn’t make enough of them.”
Illinois fans looking for hope can look at the Michigan program for some positive reinforcement. The Wolverines missed the NCAA tournament seven straight years before Beilein took over to start the 2007-08 season. They’ve been dancing three times already, won a Big Ten title last year and today they’re the best team in the country.
“I have no question that will get done here. (Groce) really knows what he’s doing,” Beilein said. “They have good talent, doing good in recruiting. This is the University of Illinois, this is a heck of a place.”