Coming off of their first big win of the season against Ohio State on Monday, expectations were high for the Wolverines to repeat their performance against a ranked Big Ten opponent. Not to mention, being a 2.5-point underdog against a high-ranked team also could have lit a fire in this team.
The first half went as expected for Michigan — losing, but keeping the game close. The Wolverines did not lead at any point in the half, but they did not find themselves down more than six points and finally got production out of their bench that had been battling injuries all season long.
Out of the under-four timeout in the first half, Michigan was down 35-31 and went back and forth with the Illini to close out the half. Illinois shot 4-of-4 for a two-minute stretch, but Michigan fired right back behind nine points from Olivier Nkamhoua, and eight from Tarris Reed Jr. and Dug McDaniel.
The biggest shot of the half came with 24 seconds left, when Jaelin Llewellyn launched a prayer of a three-pointer down four points and made it, also drawing the foul. He missed the free throw, but that shot brought Michigan within one point to end the half, 37-36, and gave the Wolverines some momentum.
Coming out of halftime, McDaniel quickly got the scoring started for Michigan, tying the game at 38 off a turnover. However, the Illini took control from there, going on a 7-0 run led by Coleman Hawkins and Marcus Domask to go up 45-38, and forced the Wolverines to call a timeout at the 16:25 mark.
Nkamhoua stopped the bleeding for a moment with a layup out of the timeout, but Luke Goode one-upped him with a three-pointer to keep the foot on the gas.
Out of the under-16-timeout, the Wolverines showed some life again, going on a 7-0 run (five from Nkamhoua) and forcing three Illinois turnovers in two and a half minutes. This run would end abruptly, however, and it was the Illini’s turn to put together a run. They scored 10 unanswered points in just a minute to take a 58-47 lead.
Michigan’s field goal drought would continue out of the media timeout, extending to 0-for-8 in six minutes as Illinois went 6-for-9 during that same period. By the time Terrance Williams II made a floater with 7:55 remaining, Illinois completed a 17-4 run and led, 65-51.
Reed and McDaniel tried to help Michigan crawl back in the game, scoring 11 of the Wolverines’ next 13 points and bringing the deficit to nine, but the Illini lead was too large to overcome, and Michigan went on to lose, 88-73.
As always, the numbers don’t lie, and the Wolverines lost because they were out-rebounded 38-29, outshot 49.2%-47.6% and lost the turnover battle, 9-6, yet again.
Hawkins, Quincy Guerrier and Ty Rodgers led Illinois in scoring with 21, 16 and 15, respectively. Reed had 20 and Nkamhoua finished with 16 for Michigan.
The Wolverines have a little break before they go on the road to face No. 2 Purdue in Mackey Arena on Tuesday.