LIVE! At Big Ten tourney vs. Michigan

LIVE! At Big Ten tourney vs. Michigan

No. 1 Michigan 64, No. 9 Illinois 63 — FINAL

INDIANAPOLIS — racy Abrams had the ball right where he wanted it — in his own hands with a drive to the basket.

The junior guard just came up short.

Jordan Morgan scored on a layup with 7.9 seconds left Friday and Abrams missed what would have been the winning shot at the buzzer, allowing No. 8 Michigan to survive a quarterfinal scare with a 64-63 win in the Big Ten tournament.

“I thought it was going to go in, and I thought we were going to win and I had the utmost confidence,” said Abrams, after staring at the rim in disbelief. “I wasn’t shocked that we lost, but shocked the shot didn’t go in.”

Abrams and Illinois (19-14) did everything they could to pull off the upset.

They charged back from a 13-point second-half deficit with brilliant zone defense. They outrebounded the Wolverines 33-26. They committed only nine turnovers and shot better from the field than Michigan, too.

The difference was two bounces. Morgan’s shot went in, Abrams’ did not.

“That one stings a little bit. When you pour your heart and soul into something, you play as hard as our guys did today, I thought our effort was great, I thought our attitude was off the charts, and thought our execution for the most part was good,” Illinois coach John Groce said.

Morgan has been there before.

A little more than one year ago, Morgan’s last-second tip-in would have given the Wolverines a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, but it rolled off the rim.

The 6-foot-8 forward didn’t let it happen again.

“I’m telling you — I probably exaggerate — 10,000 times, at least 2,000 times in five years Jordan Morgan has run that same drill,” Michgan coach John Beilein said. “There’s a bag to hit him, you still got to catch it in a crowd and keep it up and dunk it if he can. He said he wanted to add a little drama to the game, so he decided to put it up on the rim.”

It’s about time something went right for the Wolverines (24-7) in this tournament.

Since going 3-0 to win the first title in 1998, Michigan has not won more than one game in the annual tourney. The Wolverines later vacated that tourney title because of NCAA infractions, and Michigan has endured everything from an embarrassing 21-turnover game in a 2006 first-round loss to Evan Turner’s buzzer-beating 40-foot heave, which gave rival Ohio State a 69-68 quarterfinal win in 2010.

Things are supposed to be different this year.

After ending a 28-year drought between outright regular-season titles with a win at Illinois last week, Michigan came into this weekend with the No. 1 tourney seed for the first time in school history and with a full head of steam — six straight wins.

But it almost happened again.

Michigan scored just six points in the final 71/2 minutes and then wound up getting bailed out by Morgan when Big Ten player of the year changed the play coach John Beilein called in the huddle.

“I was looking to be aggressive and raised up to shoot and man, the guy guarding me was still chasing me and the big was chasing me too and J-Mo rolled down the lane and he was wide open,” Stauskas said. “I hit him with the ball and he laid it in.”

The Wolverines’ usual trio led the way. Stauskas had 19 points despite going 4 of 12 from the field and 2 of 10 on 3-pointers against Illinois’ zone defense, Glenn Robinson III had 15 points and seven rebounds and Caris LeVert finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Morgan, however, made the only two shots he took — none bigger than the layup he never expected that sent Michigan into Saturday’s semifinals against either fourth-seeded Nebraska or fifth-seeded Ohio State, who played in the second quarterfinal of the day.

“As far as catching it, I just put it on the rim and got a nice roll,” he said.

Illinois’ zone defense changed game.

Following a media timeout with 11:26 left, Stauskas made two free throws to give the Wolverines a 55-44 lead. The Illini answered with 10 straight points and finally took the lead on Rice’s driving layup with 4:53 left.

Michigan tied the score at 61 with 3:10 to go, but all the Wolverines could muster the rest of the way was one free throw from Stauskas until the surprised Morgan got the right roll.

“Well, we’re thrilled to get that win because as you can see, as Illinois has shown in their last six games, how well the program has played after a tough January,” Beilein said. “They proved how good they were, and, fortunately, we got some good bounces around the basket to finish the game.” — AP

This from Marcus Jackson:

No. 1 Michigan 53, No. 9 Illinois 44 — 11:26 second half

Rice is lucky he didn't get a technical when he dunked on Jordan Morgan. He was jawing at him running back down the court.

"It's not real unless you let him know it," Cliff Paul, brother of Brandon and Darius said on Twitter.

Karma caught up with Rice as he had the ball slip out of his hand a few minutes later on a fast-break dunk attempt.

When he called timeout at the 16:40 mark, John Groce let official D.J. Carstensen, who has a similar haircut, have a piece of his mind. He's not happy with the discrepancy with which fouls are being called.

Jon Ekey made a dunk!

Malcolm Hill is shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. He's buried a pair of threes.

Official Mike Kitts and Tracy Abrams had a brief conversation prior to the second half. Both guys walked away laughing.

A couple of quick whistles against Illinois early in the half had the Illinois fans and bench up in arms.

No. 1 Michigan 38, No. 9 Illinois 33 — Halftime

Loren Tate says he's never seen this particular Illinois team play this well. Considering the opponent, I might agree. But they were really good against Auburn in Atlanta and in the second half of that UIC game.

John Groce greeted all his players at the free throw line and high-fived them heading into the locker room.

It was 30-23 Michigan before Rice or Abrams cracked the scoring column. Rice then went on to score five straight and the Illini went on a 7-0 to tie it.

Other guys have been very aggressive offensively. Malcolm Hill has been looking to score and Joseph Bertrand really sparked the Illini for a stretch and Nunn was feeling it early.

Michigan didn't commit a turnover until there were 4 minutes, 18 seconds left. It was a moving screen.

Joseph Bertrand has made it go for Illinois today. Brandon Paul, his tight friend is ecstatic for him. He and Jaylon Tate both had big buckets midway through the half, keeping the Illini in the game. Illinois was neck and neck with Michigan midway through the half without a point from either Rayvonte Rice or Tracy Abrams, its top two scorers.

"We're playing our (butts) off, but can't get ahead of them," an Illinois fan said.

Eerie silence from the Illinois crowd when Nnanna Egwu went to the ground with what looked like an injured arm. They know how important he is to this team. He looks to be all right. Looked like he banged his elbow on the floor. He stayed in the game.

When Jaylon Tate turned the ball over in the final minutes, Egwu relatedly pointed to the defense end and told him to forget about it.

Mik Stauskas returned the favor and turned it back over.

Illinois shot 48.3 percent (14 for 29) in the half and 3 for 9 from three in the half. Kendrick Nunn leads with seven points. Bertrand had six while Rice, Hill and Egwu all had five apiece.

Michigan shot 52 percent (13 for 25) from the floor and 6 for 13 (46.2 percent) from long range. Nik Stauskas had 12 points, Glenn Robinson III had 11 and Caris LeVert had eight.

Illinois won the rebounding battle 15-12. Egwu led Illinois with five. Jordan Morgan had six for Michigan.

Michigan turned it over three times and Illinois six.

Illinois leads 13-0 in second-chance points.

No. 1 Michigan 12, No. 9 Illinois 12 — 11:06 first half

After playing just a minute yesterday, Jaylon Tate checked in at the 12:02 mark to give Abrams a break.

Joseph Bertrand has given Illinois some very solid minutes early in this one off the bench. 

Nik Stauskas looked open for a second on his first touch, but Rice did a nice job of forcing him to give it up. Rice started the game on Stauskas.

After making 16 threes in the previous meeting, Michigan missed its first three before Stauskas connected.

The Illinois fans behind me keep imploring Illinois to go to the hole. Jordan Morgan is down there, not as easy as it sounds. They've missed a couple of bunnies, though.

Brandon Paul is back sitting in the same seat he did yesterday.

"We're playing really good defense, they're just hard to guard," overheard in the Illinois crowd.

Boy Kendrick Nunn is a couple of favorable bounces away from having a dynamite start. He's had two three-pointers go in and out. He still had five of Illinois' first seven points.

There's a pretty healthy section of Michigan students here sitting in the tank. Illinois has a handful of students in its designated section.

No. 9 Illinois (19-13) vs. No. 1 Michigan (23-7) — Tipoff (ESPN)

The Illinois band sent the Illini into the locker room after the National Anthem with a loud cheer with about 10 minutes remaining before tipoff.

The Illini will start Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Nnanna Egwu.

Hill had a pretty efficient game yesterday, scoring eight points in just 13 minutes. He was battling foul trouble.

Michigan will start Derrick Walton Jr., Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan.

Former Illinois safety Supo Sanni is back working for the Big Ten. Like McGary, he's always very well-dressed. Sanni, a former Homewood-Flossmoor star in football and basketball, played AAU ball for Illini assistant Paris Parham's club back in the day. Sanni could have played hoops at Butler or Dayton, I believe.

It looks to be a pretty good crowd. I'd guess about 70 percent full here just as the first game of the first session is set to begin.

No. 9 Illinois (19-13) vs. No. 1 Michigan (23-7) — 11 a.m. (ESPN)

The basketballs were released here at exactly 11 a.m. EDT and you would have thought it was Christmas morning for a bunch of 6-year-olds.

Michigan is wearing its bright maize uniforms. Illinois is sticking with the road blues. I'm guessing those were washed. It was a smelly locker room yesterday afternoon.

The doors are now open here and the fans are starting to make their way to their seats. A couple of young Michigan fans are courting autographs from the players. The girl, about 9 years old, face-planted across a few chairs trying to run to a prime location. She popped up and said "I'm OK."

The Illinois friends and family section is behind me once again. I've heard some of them lobbying to sit in the same exact seats as yesterday. Superstitious folks.

I've finally seen Nik Stauskas miss a shot. In warmups, the Big Ten Player of the Year tried a 360 dunk and missed. Doubt he'll be attempting any of those today.

Expect the Illini to be well-prepared today from a scouting perspective. But as the great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, "Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

Mitch McGary is out on the court taking shots with the Michigan players. Don't worry, the big man who was a preseason first-team All-America pick, is wearing an impeccably tailored suit. He's only played eight games this season, but his wardrobe is first-team All-America worthy.

A lot of Michigan fans here early. 

How about basketball in the state of Indiana? Not a single team from the state will make the NCAA tournament. Illinois is facing the same issue even though the Illini and Northwestern technically still have a chance to win the tournament here and make it.

Be back soon with another update.

No. 9 Illinois (19-13) vs. No. 1 Michigan (23-7) — 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Good morning from Bankers Life Fieldhouse for today's Big Ten quarterfinal where the Illini will look to build off yesterday's opening-round win of Indiana and bounce back from the recent trashing at the hands of the Big Ten Champion Wolverines.

Good luck finding more than a handful of people who think the Illini have a chance against the eighth-ranked team in America. Based on what happened in Champaign on March 4, Michigan clinching the outright Big Ten title with an 84-53 win, hard to blame them. I'd expect today's game to be much closer. We picked it 69-65. I hear Michigan is a seven-point favorite or so.

Illinois assistant coach Jamall Walker has the Michigan scout. If they can keep the Wolverines somewhere between 65-70 points, they should be in it. The Wolverines have scored 84 points in each of their last two games, wins against Illinois and Indiana.

The word is Michigan took a bus down from Michigan, stopped in Fort Wayne, got a workout in, ate, then made the rest of the trip down to Indy.

Stuck around for the late game last night between Northwestern and Iowa. What the heck has happened to the Hawkeyes? That team last night didn't look like it cared and looked like a group that doesn't really like one another. They're down to a 10 seed in Jerry Palm's latest bracket at CBSsports.com. The good news for them is they don't have to play anymore between now and Sunday so they can't hurt their NCAA tournament hopes anymore.

There's a meme on the Internet charting the levels of Fran McCaffery anger. I encourage you to look that up. It's called Francon Levels, or something like that.

Give Northwestern a lot of credit, though. Tre Demps is a heck of a player.

Very interested to see what the crowds are like today with Indiana and Purdue both out of the tournament. The first session featuring Illinois-Indiana and Purdue-Ohio State was easily the better-attended yesterday. I looked up during the second half of the Illini game yesterday and the place was full except for a couple of student sections way at the top of the building at the north and south ends. The night crowds weren't so great.

Dan Dakich and Mike Tirico are on the call today for ESPN. Dakich spent a while on the court speaking with Illinois assistant Dustin Ford. Dakich loves Ford. Ford hit six threes in a game during his career at Ohio to help Dakich's Bowling Green team win the Mid-American Conference title.

Dakich also spent some time with his son Andrew, a walk-on at Michigan. The Dakich men posed for a photo on the court.

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