Michigan 64 - Illinois 63: Zoned In

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan barely escapes a suffocating Illinois zone defense to move on in the Big Ten tournament.f

The game started the way Michigan wanted.  The Wolverines kept just a step ahead of Illinois until late in the first half when Michigan was able to start a run that would eventually stretch out to 16-3 on the other side of halftime.  The Wolverines were in the driver's seat and everything looked great.

That is until Illinois pulled out a fast zone defense that cut Michigan's offense almost entirely outside of the lane.  The Wolverines made just four field goals over the last 16 minutes of gametime, while allowing Illinois to drive at will on the other end.

Nik Stauskas in particular had a rough day shooting the ball outside.  He hit just two of his ten three point attempts, but his aggressiveness driving into the lane got him ten free throw attempts and a perfect two for two inside the lane.

Glenn Robinson III put together another solid game.  He was second on the team in points with 15 on 11 shots, and two of those were from outside.  He also added seven rebounds.  Him being more active in the offense was important for Michigan early and he hit a big three late in the game when Michigan was reeling.

Jordan Morgan struggled with foul trouble all day but managed to hit both his shots (including the game winner) and grab six rebounds. Jon Horford struggled when playing for Morgan.

Michigan prevailed late, but this was a worrisome game.  When reduced to a perimeter-only team, Michigan struggled to generate offense, and Illinois sliced and diced Michigan on the other end of the court late.  Fortunately the lead was big enough early that Michigan had enough in the tank to survive.

Michigan now awaits the winner of Ohio State-Nebraska.  Tomorrow's game will be at 1:40.

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