ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For a half Sunday, Illinois fans who made the trip to Michigan’s Crisler Center were treated to a heck of a show.
A group of senior-citizen ushers performed one of those “Harlem Shake” dance routines that’s been all the rage.
And in the main event, their team entered the locker room after 20 minutes with a three-point lead on the seventh-ranked Wolverines.
That was as good as it got for the visitors – both fans and team. The Wolverines knocked off the rust they generated after a seven-day break and dominated the second half in running away with a 71-58 win in front of an announced crowd of 12,693.
“I’m gonna keep this real simple for you, they were smarter and tougher than us in the second half, that was the difference in the game,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
Michigan (23-4, 10-4 Big Ten), completing a season’s sweep of the Illini, outscored them 43-27 in the final 20 minutes. Mental miscues — 13 turnovers led to 27 Michigan points — led to the Illini’s Big Ten-best five-game win streak coming to a halt.
“It’s real disappointing, they came out more aggressive in the second half. They made a run and we didn’t really respond,” said D.J. Richardson, who along with Tracy Abrams and Brandon Paul led the Illini with 10 points. “We knew they were going to make a run in the second half, not knowing they were going to be smarter and tougher than us in the second half.”
Illinois was playing with house money. The loss likely doesn’t hurt the Illini much in terms of an NCAA tournament berth. A win likely would have moved the team with four wins against current Top 20 outfits up a seed line.
“They punked us,” Richardson said of Michigan, which has won 31 or its last 32 games at home. “We turned the ball over and made bone-head mistakes.”
Michigan point guard Trey Burke finished with 26 points and eight assists while turning the ball over once.
“He’s a terrific player. I’ve said all week, I was in that area (Columbus, Ohio), I lived in that area, I saw him play a lot in middle school, high school. He’s gotten better, you can go down the line,” Groce said of Burke, who scored or assisted on 16 of Michigan’s 25 baskets. “His body’s changed, ball handling, passing, shooting. But, the thing that he’s always had is competitive toughness, he’s had that since Day 1, I’ve always admired that about him. I think he’s a tough kid. I watch them on film, I think they take on his personality. He’s a terrific player and today he made big-time plays.”
The things that Illinois had been doing during its win streak — the toughness plays — were missing Sunday, particularly in the second half.
“It’s unacceptable, it’s intolerable. It’s the second time we’ve played them. We had two days (to prepare), that’s plenty to execute some of the things we were trying to do,” Groce said. “We did it a little bit better in the first half than the second half. We’ve got to be better than what we played in the second half.”