LIVE! Michigan at State Farm Center
Final: Michigan 70, Illinois 63
The Wolverines outscored Illinois 7-2 in the final 2 1/2 minutes to hold on for a 70-63 victory Sunday afternoon at State Farm Center.
The Illini were within 63-61 following a pair of free throws by Alexis Smith before Michigan pulled away.
Wolverines junior forward Cyesha Goree scored a career-high 30 points -- nine more than her previous high -- and grabbed 19 rebounds. That also was her career high, by one.
Amber Moore led Illinois with 19 points,while junior Taylor Tuck came off the bench to score a career-high 18.
The loss was Illinois' seventh straight and dropped its record to 9-17, including 2-11 in the Big Ten.
Michigan improved to 16-10 and 7-6.
Check back later for a complete game story.
3:12 left in second half: Michigan 63, Illinois 59
Illini hanging in there. A basket by Ivory Crawford and a steal and driving basket by Amber Moore have draw Illini back within four points.
Cyesha Goree remains a force for Michigan. She has scored the Wolverines' last eight points.
7: 40 left in second half: Michigan 57, Illinois 53
The Illini went on a 12-0 run to take their first lead since midway through the first half. Alexis Smith led the charge with eight points, Capping the run with a three-pointer to lift Illinois to a 53-52 advantage.
Taylor Tuck contributed three points during the surge and is up to 16 points, tying her career high.
Michigan answered, however, with five straight points to retake the lead. Siera Thompson matched Smith's three to put the Wolverines back ahead 55-53.
13: 24 left in second half: Michigan 52, Illinois 41
Hero: Illini fans
We have the official attendance total for today's Play4Kay game. It's 3,018, the program's second largest crowd of the season. The top attendance is 3,306 on Jan. 12 for a game against Nebraska.
Goat: Slow-starting Illini
Nebraska outscored Illinois 6-0 to open the second half and extend its lead to 46-38.
What I'm thinking
-- Cyesha Goree isn't the only tough matchup for Illinois today. Val Driscoll, a 6-4 center, had Michigan's first two baskets of the half and is now shooting 4 of 5 for the game.
-- Amber Moore is doing what she can to keep the Illini within striking distance. The senior wing followed a three-pointer with another basket to pull Illinois within 50-41.
-- Taylor Tuck could break her career best for points in a single game. The Illini junior scored her team's first basket of the half and is up to a season-high 13 points. Her career high is 16.
Halftime: Michigan 40, Illinois 34
Hero: Cyesha Goree
The Michigan forward has been a virtually unstoppable force. Goree already has a near-double-double (19 points, eight rebounds) and is shooting 7 of 9 from the field. All of Goree's rebounds, remarkably, are on the offensive end.
Goat: Siera Thompson
The Wolverines guard, who entered with a team co-leading 13.7 scoring average, is 0 for 6 with four points.
What I'm thinking:
-- Big crowd today reaching up to the top of B section. Good to see the cold weather didn't discourage fans from showing up for the Play4Kay breast cancer awareness day.
-- More than a dozen former Illini players were introduced at the under-four minute media timeout. Among them were a couple of recent alums: Adrienne GodBold and Kersten Magrum, who completed their UI careers last season.
-- One big reason the Illini are in this game is Taylor Tuck. The junior guard-forward already had 11 points, tying her season high. She's 4 of 6 from the field.
-- Illini still getting killed on the boards. Michigan holds a 20-7 edge, including 14-2 on the offensive end. Little wonder the Wolverines have 14 second-chance points.
-- There has been a Shaun Livingston sighting, I'm told. The brother of Illini freshman Sarah Livingston is currently playing for the NBA Nets.
7:30 left in first half: Michigan 24, Illinois 19
The Illini took a 17-16 lead on a basket by Taylor Tuck, but Michigan responded with an 8-0 run. Cyesha Goree fueled the surge, scoring three consecutive baskets to put Michigan ahead 24-17.
Illini getting a big boost off the bench from Tuck. The junior guard-forward scored six consecutive points to give UI that 17-16 lead.
11:41 left in first half: Michigan 16, Illinois 15
Both teams are hitting their shots. Michigan is 6 of 12 from the field; Illinois is 5 of 10
Goat: Illini rebounders.
As happened when these teams met in January, Michigan is dominating the boards. The Wolverines lead 8-2 in this category and, most hurtful to Illinois, have five offensive rebounds.
What I'm thinking:
-- It's Play4Kay breast cancer awareness day at SFC, and both teams are in the spirit. Illini are wearing pink uniforms and Michigan players were in pink pullover tops during warmups and when they are on the bench.
-- As Illini coach Matt Bollant had promised, Amber Moore is back in the starting lineup. After starting the previous three games on the bench, the fifth-year senior sharpshooter has hit a couple of three-pointers.
-- Two Illini starters got into early foul trouble and had to go to the bench temporarily. Sarah Livington and Ivory Crawford each were pulled after drawing their second fouls, Livingston at 15:22 and Crawford at 14:21.
Welcome to our live report from State Farm Center for today’s Big Ten women’s basketball game between Illinois and Michigan.
The Illini (9-16, 2-10 Big Ten) are mired in a six-game losing streak and in last place in the conference. The Wolverines (15-10, 6-6 Big Ten) are also in a tailspin, having lost four of their last five games.
Michigan won the teams’ previous meeting this season, 69-60, on Jan. 18 at Ann Arbor, Mich. You wouldn’t have thought it would be that close, given that the Wolverines outrebounded Illinois 40-22 and, more importantly, outscored the visitors 20-3 at the foul line. Yet, the Illini were within six points with 5:47 left before hitting an offensive wall while Michigan was hitting its free throws.
Illini coach Matt Bollant said Saturday he planned to return senior wing Amber Moore to the starting lineup in place of forward Nia Oden. Moore was one of three lineup regulars who lost their starting jobs three games ago when Bollant decided to shake up the lineup in the midst of the current slump.
In returning Moore to the starting five, Bollant cited his team’s struggles to be productive offensively at the start of games. Moore is the team’s second-leading scorer for the season.
Illinois will still be without starting center Jacqui Grant, who has missed the last three games with mononucleosis. Bollant said Saturday that Grant still has an enlarged spleen and he doesn’t expect her back for another week and a half to two weeks.
Illinois received an unexpected offensive lift Thursday at Iowa from walk-on Ashley McConnell. The freshman guard, who entered that game 0 for 16 from the field for the season, scored a team-high 13 points while shooting 4 for 7 and hitting three three-pointers.
Michigan enters with a diverse and balanced offense that includes three players who rank from 16th to 30th in the Big Ten in scoring.
Where the Wolverines really excel is on the boards. Michigan ranks second in the conference in rebound margin at plus-7.5 per game. Illinois will need to pay particular attention to forward Cyesha Goree, who racked up 15 rebounds against Illinois in the teams’ last meeting. Six of those came on the offensive glass, an area in which Goree leads the Big Ten. She’s also No. 4 in overall rebounding in the league.
Illinois will be trying today to avoid extending its losing streak to the longest since the 2011-12 Illini lost seven in a row. That was during coach Jolette Law’s final season.
We’ll update this report periodically during the game so be sure to check back.