The second-ranked Michigan Wolverines (18-2, 13-2 Big Ten) were run off the court by the fourth-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini (19-6, 15-4 Big Ten) on Tuesday night by a score of 76-53 in Ann Arbor. This was a brutal and nearly unwatchable effort from the home team looking to clinch a regular-season conference title.
Normally, this is where we would recap the stats and what happened in the game, but that was a brutal showing from top to bottom. Illinois came into the building without its best player and threw haymakers anyway. Absolutely nothing went right for Michigan in this game other than the clock hitting zero in both halves of basketball.
The most alarming part of this game was not the rebounding or the missed shots. It was a listless and lifeless effort that we have not seen from this group. Illinois had a louder and more boisterous bench all night and the script was flipped on the Wolverines. Normally it is Michigan who smells blood in the water and rips the soul out of a team on the ropes, but they were victims of their own brand of dominance on Tuesday.
The only silver lining to take out of this game is that both losses this season have come on nights where Michigan was uncharacteristically bad. But to do so on this stage given the attitude from Illinois over Michigan’s COVID shutdown and rescheduling and the fact that clinching a conference title was on the line is extremely painful. It felt like the stars had aligned for the good guys to deliver a batch of comeuppance, but that was not in the cards on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor.
It would be awesome to get another shot at Illinois in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments. Michigan has not let mistakes snowball this season, but they were due for a showing like this. Underwood and his team deserve all the credit in the world for how well they played on Tuesday night. It just sucks that in their minds, it will back up the idea that Michigan “ducked them” coming out of the COVID shutdown.
At the end of the day, this is a classic “burn the tape” game. It hurts in the vacuum of what Tuesday night could have been, but Michigan gets a chance to rebound from it with a pair of rivalry games against a desperate Michigan State team to end the year. The effort they showed against Illinois is not going to cut it no matter the opponent.
Nothing is as sobering as a well-rounded ass kicking. All that matters now is what happens next.
We will see you Thursday for Senior night in Ann Arbor with the Spartans in town. Michigan can still clinch a regular-season title with a win in either of its last two games.