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Instant Analysis: Michigan Defeats Illinois 72-61

Trey Burke: continuing to help the Wolverines hold onto an opportunity for a Big Ten title. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE
Trey Burke: continuing to help the Wolverines hold onto an opportunity for a Big Ten title. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan walked into Assembly Hall on a losing streak that had gone on for over a decade and a half. Michigan left the court a game closer to doing something it hasn't done in an even longer time --- win a share of the Big Ten title.

The Wolverines got started fast, jumping out to an early six-point lead before allowing Illinois to tie the game midway through the first half. From there Michigan used a 13-4 run to help establish a lead that would eventually be seven points at the end of the first half.

On the other side of halftime Illinois came out hot and pushed back to within single digits on multiple occasions thanks to a six for eight shooting run to begin the half, but the Illini continually failed to capitalize on opportunities once the game got tight. Michigan, on the other hand rode an absolutely stellar day from Tim Hardaway Jr. through Illinois' second half push and the lead once again was pushed to nearly double-digits with under five minutes remaining.

Down the stretch Illinois just couldn't put together enough momentum and scoring to overcome the parade of free throws for Michigan, and the Wolverines walked out with an 11-point victory.

Quick bullets:

  • Evan Smotrycz was one of the best players on the floor the first time these teams met, scoring 13 points with 2/3 3pt shooting and 5/6 on free throws, four steals, three rebounds and two assists. Tonight he was barely there. He spent some time dinged up with an injury and eventually fouled out. Mostly he looked soft and incapable. - ZT
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. turned in one of his most impressive performances of the year tonight (25 points, 11 rebounds), and did so with remarkable effiiciency from the field (6-for-7 FGs, 4-for-4 3Ps). Seeing him get to the free throw line 10 times is also a great sign for this team going forward, and is a clear barometer that he's long over that confidence issue that plagued him earlier in the year. If he's as good as he was tonight in the postseason, Michigan will be a terror offensively. - DR
  • Not to be outdone, Trey Burke put up 21 points and five assists to just two turnovers. Burke looked controlled and played a heady game by getting into the lane and drawing help defenders for easy assists, and at one point late he pushed the ball in transition and drew a foul to help Michigan extend the lead. If Burke isn't the Big Ten freshman of the year at this point I'll see you at Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork in a couple weeks. - ZT
  • Michigan missed its first free throw with under one minute remaining. The Wolverines don't often get to the line, but at least when they do they usually capitalize. Tonight Michigan finished 21 for 23 (91%) to go along with 9 for 19 from long range. The Wolverines needed every bit of great shooting tonight on the road. - ZT
  • Broke a 17 year winless streak at Assembly Hall and kept the chance for a shared conference title alive? Good night. - ZT

More analysis to come tomorrow.