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Recap, takeaways from Michigan basketball’s road conference loss against Illinois

Despite a late effort, the Wolverines were unable to be the first Big Ten team to win a road conference game.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A high scoring win over Iowa to open Big Ten play was the bounce back Michigan needed after a road loss to Louisville. It came in rather unorthodox fashion as Austin Davis and Brandon Johns Jr. were key players in the victory, but on a night where Iowa big man Luka Garza didn’t hardly miss, the play by the bench forwards was much needed.

Tonight was a different story however. The fast pace of play was not in favor of the maize and blue. Zavier Simpson looked to push the pace, but the Illinois shot blockers erased what felt like every inside look for the Wolverines. The quick pace on the road is dangerous as the Wolverines struggled to limit turnovers and weren’t great with their transition defense

Poor shooting was the story tonight. Michigan missed nearly all of their three point shots, and even though Illinois didn’t shoot the lights out, they did enough inside to come out on top. Credit to Illinois who didn’t let Michigan have many open looks from deep tonight, sticking to what Head Coach Brad Underwood described to be the game plan.


  • The Wolverines struggled to stop the basketball, specifically in transition, tonight. Both offenses wanted to run, resulting in lots of points in the paint but also turnovers on both sides. Additionally, they got beat off the dribble too much tonight as Illinois played a lot of isolation basketball and relied on offensive rebounding to finish off possessions. Michigan, on the other hand, failed to score any second chance points tonight.
  • The Wolverines, similarly to last Friday against Iowa, gave up too many offensive rebounds. Tonight it was freshman center Kofi Cockburn who used his size to get most of what he wanted against the Michigan big men. Physicality is an area where the team will look to improve going forward.
  • Zavier Simpson struggled with turnovers early in the season but has looked to assert more aggressiveness as of late. Tonight, he led the team in shot attempts but Illinois, namely Kofi Cockburn, turned several of those shots into monster blocks.
  • The Wolverines didn’t dominate the paint or do a great job of keeping Illinois off the offensive glass, but they did a good job of playing without fouling early. Their first foul came with 2:35 left in the first half. In the second half though, the Wolverines did just the opposite. Illinois got to the line often and shot efficiently from there as the game flow was hindered by more whistles.
  • Finding a way to score in road games is going to be really important for Michigan this year. Playing on the road anywhere in this conference is tough, hence why coming into this game, Big Ten teams were 0-9 in conference road matchups. We saw the Wolverines offense struggle at Louisville and 41 percent shooting from the field in the first half tonight was not ideal either.
  • The Wolverines failed throughout the majority of the second half to answer Illinois with any runs of their own. They were able to keep it under double digits for most of the half but failed to get consistent stops and scores to get where they needed to be. The fight at the end was a good sign but was too little too late in the end.

It’s going to be a dogfight in conference road games all season, not only for the Wolverines but every Big Ten team. In the end, the Wolverines will be okay. They have the opportunity to get back on track Saturday when No. 10 Oregon comes to Crisler Center for a 12 p.m. ET tip.