Michigan 71, UI 58: 'They punked us'
ANN ARBOR, Mich. â€” For a half Sunday, Illinois fans who made the trip to Michiganâ€™s Crisler Center were treated to a heck of a show.
A group of senior-citizen ushers performed one of those â€śHarlem Shakeâ€ť dance routines thatâ€™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 â€“ 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.
â€śIâ€™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,â€ť Illinois coach John Groce said.
Michigan (23-4, 10-4 Big Ten), completing a seasonâ€™s sweep of the Illini, outscored them 43-27 in the final 20 minutes. Mental miscues â€” 13 turnovers led to 27 Michigan points â€” led to the Illiniâ€™s Big Ten-best five-game win streak coming to a halt.
â€śItâ€™s real disappointing, they came out more aggressive in the second half. They made a run and we didnâ€™t really respond,â€ť said D.J. Richardson, who along with Tracy Abrams and Brandon Paul led the Illini with 10 points. â€śWe 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.â€ť
Illinois was playing with house money. The loss likely doesnâ€™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.
â€śThey punked us,â€ť Richardson said of Michigan, which has won 31 or its last 32 games at home. â€śWe turned the ball over and made bone-head mistakes.â€ť
Michigan point guard Trey Burke finished with 26 points and eight assists while turning the ball over once.
â€śHeâ€™s a terrific player. Iâ€™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. Heâ€™s gotten better, you can go down the line,â€ť Groce said of Burke, who scored or assisted on 16 of Michiganâ€™s 25 baskets. â€śHis bodyâ€™s changed, ball handling, passing, shooting. But, the thing that heâ€™s always had is competitive toughness, heâ€™s had that since Day 1, Iâ€™ve always admired that about him. I think heâ€™s a tough kid. I watch them on film, I think they take on his personality. Heâ€™s a terrific player and today he made big-time plays.â€ť
The things that Illinois had been doing during its win streak â€” the toughness plays â€” were missing Sunday, particularly in the second half.
â€śItâ€™s unacceptable, itâ€™s intolerable. Itâ€™s the second time weâ€™ve played them. We had two days (to prepare), thatâ€™s plenty to execute some of the things we were trying to do,â€ť Groce said. â€śWe did it a little bit better in the first half than the second half. Weâ€™ve got to be better than what we played in the second half.â€ť