With the announcement and appearance of Jim Harbaugh as Michigan's new football coach, today was as electric as it gets. But, the opening half of Michigan's Big Ten season opener was just a little off.
Through the first 12 and a half minutes of the first half, Illinois and Michigan combined for a total of two buckets in the paint. The Wolverines' shot selection was terrible, as there was virtually no movement toward the basket, while Illinois finished the frame at 3 of 6 from the 3-point land.
The real difference came at the charity stripe. Illinois made three of their four attempts at the line, but Michigan made only two of their six...but didn't make that first attempt until 3:27 to go in the first half. Michigan's first FT came with just under ten seconds to go.
The first half was also clearly the Caris LeVert show, as LeVert hit five buckets on nine shots taken, while no other Wolverine attempted more than six shots. With Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin going a combined 1-11 to open things up, the day started to feel like it was going to be a long one.
Even when Michigan tried to do the right thing, like giving a foul to end the half, they couldn't do it right. Instead of committing a foul anywhere on the floor but under the basket, Mark Donnal did just that, and allowed Illinois to complete a three-point play to close out the first half with a 32-26 lead.
In his preview of today's game Fouad said that the first half would be full of energy, but a second half cold streak would be the killer for Michigan. At the under-12 media time out, Michigan's FG% was still only at 32% and the 3-PT shots were at 19%. Was it really going to get much colder?
Then, Michigan's Aubrey Dawkins decided to take things over, make a statement, and turn up the heat. The young man who came into today's game with only six shots made, became instant lightning in a bottle, shooting 75% from the field (86% from the three point line) and 2-2 from the FT line on his way to a team-high 20 points.
Caris LeVert did his usual and scored 19 points, while Ricky Doyle and Zak Irvin followed up with 13 points each.
The play of Dawkins clearly got the rest of the team to play much more inspired basketball than we've seen of late and pushed this game to OT, where Zak Irvin hit two three pointers, and two key free throws to increase and cement the lead for a much-needed win.
There are still issues with shot selection, free throws, and getting into the paint. But, on a day when Michigan really needed an inspired win, they got it in spades.