Michigan makes its case for No. 1, grabs a B1G first-place tie in the process with win over Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With less than 10 minutes to play Sunday, Illinois' Joseph Bertrand brought a sellout Assembly Hall crowd to its feet with a bucket, putting a bit of upset blood in the water.
And then, Michigan remembered it was Michigan.
One possession later, Mitch McGary tipped in a miss. Ten seconds after that Trey Burke was hanging on the rim after a dunk -- the Wolverines had a double-digit lead again and a spot atop the Big Ten standings.
Burke finished with 19 points and 5 assists to lead four Wolverines in double figures and Michigan made its case for No. 1 with a 74-60 win over Illinois at a sold out Assembly Hall.
The Wolverines (19-1, 6-1 Big Ten) continued their best start to a season in program history, and moved into a tie for first atop the conference standings with Indiana -- who knocked off Michigan State earlier in the day.
WIth the win, Michigan -- who is currently ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 -- may move into the No. 1 spot for the first time since 1992. The poll is released Monday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Wolverines went back and forth with Illinois in spurts -- but mainly controlled the game from start to finish.
After pushing its lead to as many as 13 early in the second half, Michigan found Illinois' final push in the form of a 9-3 push that was highlighted by a Bertrand bucket with 9:12 to go, forcing a Michigan timeout, and sending Assembly Hall into a short-lived frenzy.
But McGary's subsequent tip and Burke's steal and slam pushed the lead back up to 11 less than a minute later, forcing a frustrated timeout from Illinois coach John Groce.
From there, the white flag was waved.
Michigan went on a 13-2 run to push its lead to as many as 18 before settling for the 14-point win.
Glenn Robinson III finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds for the Wolverines, while Nik Stauskas finished with 14. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 12.
The Wolverines shot 52.5 percent from the floor, while Illinois finished 23 of 62 (37.1 percent), 6 of 26 from 3-point range.
-- Nik Stauskas had his best road showing since the Northwestern game, looking very comfortable from the outset. He jumped out of the gate early, scoring 9 early points, and looked much more under control than he has at other times in hostile environments.
-- Jon Horford was called into duty earlier than usual with Jordan Morgan going down with a right ankle sprain during the opening moments of the first half. Horford responded well, putting up 2 points and 2 rebounds in 8 first-half minutes. He finished with 7 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes.
-- Illinois spent the first half jacking shots all over the place on its end, while Michigan went to the basket -- outscoring the Illini 22-10 in the paint before the break. Glenn Robinson III had two big tip-ins, and Stauskas had three easy drives to the basket early.
-- Burke was Burke. He didn't have all his best stuff, but he was still the best player on the floor.
-- Jordan Morgan played just two minutes in the first half after taking an early tumble. Michigan officially declared it a sprained right ankle. He appeared to be in some serious pain, leaving the floor and heading to the locker room immediately. Morgan did not play in the second half.
-- Illinois had success on the offensive glass, going for 16 offensive rebounds.
ISSUE OF THE DAY: REVISITED
-- The pressure of playing for a possible No. 1 spot in the country was too much for Michigan last time. But this time?
Not so much.
Kansas is still ranked higher than Michigan in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, and the Jayhawks have a case for No. 1 also. But so does Michigan.
Especially after Sunday.
What's a bigger deal to you? No. 1 in the nation or first place in the Big Ten?