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Takeaways from Michigan’s double overtime loss to Illinois

Man, that one was brutal.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The win seemed locked up for the Michigan Wolverines; after going on a 7-0 run to close regulation, they forced overtime. After a few clutch buckets from Hunter Dickinson in the post, Michigan was up seven with 1:49 left.

The Wolverines failed to execute down the stretch yet again, giving up a 7-0 run to close the first overtime before Illinois pulled away in the second overtime. Ultimately, the Fighting Illini won, 91-87.

In a season full of brutal finishes by the Wolverines, this one might have been the most brutal, given the implications. Michigan’s currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, and winning against a solid Illinois team with quality wins over No. 4 UCLA and No. 9 Texas would have been huge for U-M’s resume.

This would have been one of the Wolverines’ most important wins of the season, but yet again, they let another close game slip through their fingers. Barring a magical run in the Big Ten Tournament, it feels like they’ve officially run out of time.

Here are the takeaways from the loss.n

Don’t take Kobe Bufkin for granted

When Illinois started to take command in the second half and jumped out to a nine-point lead about seven minutes into the second half, Kobe Bufkin took over the game.

He had 17 points in the second half alone, making clutch shot after clutch shot to help Michigan claw back. He finished with 23 points (his sixth 20-point game of the season) to go along with six rebounds.

It really sucks he didn’t have any points in overtime, and it’s very surprising the coaches weren’t trying to get him more looks, albeit the Illini did a great job locking him down in overtime.

He didn’t even take a shot in the overtime periods, but his burst in the second half can’t be understated; Michigan’s offense was lost without him and the Wolverines could have lost by 15 if it wasn’t for him. He scored at all three levels, played excellent defense and made some tough shots.

Michigan fans better enjoy Bufkin while he’s still wearing the Maize and Blue. With the way he’s playing, he could be a first round pick if he decides to enter the draft.

A solid game for Hunter, but a missed free throw will haunt him.

Mark Jackson loves to say big-time players show up in big-time games. That was the case with Hunter Dickinson, but he missed one shot that’s going to haunt him.

The junior big man finished with 31 points — two shy of his career-high of 33 — to go along with 16 rebounds and three assists. He also was absolutely dominant in that first overtime, scoring six points in a 90-second span to help Michigan gain a five-point lead.

The big man wasn’t perfect — he turned the ball over five times and had some rough defensive possessions — but it was a rather impressive performance that culminated with his best post-move of the game.

Going one-on-one with Coleman Hawkins, Dickinson took a few dribbles before quickly spinning towards the baseline, what’s now become his signature move. As the double-team started to creep towards him, he pivoted back towards the lane, finishing through contact with a left hook before heading to the free-throw line with a chance to tie the game at 88 with 39 seconds left in the second overtime.

He missed the free throw and Michigan never scored again.

It was another masterful performance offensively from one of the most dominant bigs in college basketball, but that missed free throw was brutal.

Way too many turnovers

You got to give credit where credit is due — the Fighting Illini played excellent defense in the half court and forced Michigan to throw the ball away a few too many times.

Turnovers are one of the few things Michigan hasn’t struggled with this season; the Wolverines average only 9.9 per game, a mark that’s fourth in the Big Ten and 12th in the country.

They almost hit their average in the first half alone (8), as they got smothered by Illinois’ aggressive double-teams and near-perfect rotations. Illinois got nine points off those first-half turnovers and held Michigan scoreless from the 6:45 mark to the 1:57 mark.

The Wolverines took care of the ball better in the second half, but turned over the ball 12 times total, five more times than the Fighting Illini. In a super close game like this, those extra turnovers really hurt the Wolverines.

When they needed to be their most sound with the ball, they crumbled. A tough pill to swallow in March, when every game is a must-win for the Wolverines at this point.

What’s next

Michigan’s final game of the regular season is Sunday against the No. 15 Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m.

Being able to earn a road win against one of the top Big Ten teams would help the Wolverines a lot. If they lose that game, they’ll need to win the Big Ten Tournament to be in the NCAA Tournament.