The Michigan Wolverines started off hot against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday with an 11-4 run that made it seem like they would pull away quickly.
However, the Illini fought back and trimmed Michigan’s lead to just three points.
A big reason for this was the Wolverines turning the ball over, as they allowed 11 first half turnovers despite averaging only 9 turnovers a game up to this point the season.
Michigan center Jon Teske had a great first half on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he scored 7 points including two highlight dunks. On the defensive side of the ball he sent back two shots and held Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili to just 3-8 shooting.
Illinois’ usage in the post should be a surprise to no one after the success that Juwan Morgan had against Michigan big men earlier in the week.
The standout player for the Fighting Illini was freshman Ayo Dosunmu, who picked up 19 points in the first half behind 8 of 10 shooting. His biggest shot was a last second banked three pointer over Jon Teske cutting the Wolverines’ lead to just five points at the half.
The Wolverines did not have quite the same success shooting the basketball at the halfway point. The team was just 3 of 11 (27.3%) from behind the arc.
Even though they couldn’t find their rhythm from deep, the Wolverines still had four scorers near ten points at the halfway point: Teske, Isaiah Livers, Jordan Poole, and Ignas Brazdeikis. Their success elevated Michigan to score nearly 40 points in the first half behind 10-13 shooting from the charity stripe
Heading into that halftime break, the Wolverines led the Fighting Illini 39-34.
Teske scored a quick seven points in the first five minutes extending the Michigan lead to ten point with 15 minutes remaining.
After a botched alley-oop attempt from the hands of Iggy, Illinois Aaron Jordan hit an uncontested three pointer on the opposite end keeping the Fighinting Illini is the game with the Wolverines leading 49-44 with 13:23 to play.
Then Michigan put a string of quality possessions together including two emphatic dunks by Charles Matthews and two layups from Brazdeikis. The Wolverines pulled ahead yet again to a twelve point lead at the under eight minute timeout.
That lead would stay consistent throughout the rest of the ballgame as the two teams traded blows. Michigan would finish victorious over Illinois, winning 79-69.
This was in large part to the Michigan defense shutting down Dosunmu in the second half. He scored just four points in the second half after scoring 19 in the first.
The Wolverines would finish with all five starters surpassing double digits in the scoring column. Simpson led all scorers with 16 points, but Teske stole the show with a double-double and the most impressive stat line of his career: 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks.
With the victory, Michigan ties its hottest start in program history with a 16-0 record. They move on to face Northwestern on Sunday. Michigan’s two point victory over Northwestern on December 4 was their closest game of the season.