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Posted on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Tim Hardaway Jr. nearly perfect in Michigan basketball team's 72-61 win at Illinois

By Nick Baumgardner

This story was updated with postgame quotes and more information.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tim Hardaway Jr. looked re-invigorated, Trey Burke went into the history books and the Michigan basketball team stayed above water.

And now, with one regular-season game left, the Wolverines' hope for the program's first Big Ten championship in 26 years is very much alive.


Tim Hardaway Jr. is fouled as he drives between Illinois' Brandon Paul (3) and Joseph Bertrand. Hardaway scored 25 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.

AP Photo

Hardaway finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds as No. 13 Michigan willed its way by host Illinois on Thursday, 72-61 at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill., the Wolverines first win in Assembly Hall since 1995.

"The whole memo coming into this game was 1995," Hardaway said afterward. "We had a blank (spot) on our board at practice and (assistant coach LaVall) Jordan said 'You want to change that? Then go out and play hard and play smart, and it'll say March 1, 2012.'

"We made sure we got that done."

With the win, Michigan (22-8, 12-5) pulls even with Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten standings with one game remaining. The Wolverines' 12 league wins is the most the program has had since 1993-94.

Should the Wolverines earn a win at Penn State on Sunday (1 p.m., ESPN) in their regular-season finale, and should Michigan State fall to Ohio State, Michigan will earn a share of the 2011-12 Big Ten title.

The program's last league championship came in 1986.

"We won't think more about (Sunday) other than that we have to take care of our business," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Then (we'll) worry about what (Michigan State and Ohio State) do."


Nick Baumgardner’s recap:

Michigan's hopes for its first Big Ten title in 26 years remain alive and well after its fourth Big Ten road win of the season and fifth victory in its past six games. The Wolverines (22-8, 12-5) pulled even with Ohio State for second place. Should the Wolverines beat Penn State on Sunday, and get help from Ohio State with a win over first-place Michigan State, they’d share their first Big Ten title since 1986.

Sophomore forward Tim Hardaway Jr. has been criticized often this season while struggling to remain consistent on both ends of the floor. On Thursday, there was nothing but praise. Hardaway put up 25 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, the third double-double of his career, and almost single-handedly kept Michigan in the game midway through the second half.

Michigan point guard Trey Burke found his way into the school record book by passing Gary Grant for the school's freshman single-season assist record. Burke now has 143 assists on the season.

"It'd be different if we were playing Michigan State for the championship, but some things we have no control over. We're focused 100 percent on Penn State and we know we've got to win."
Michigan senior captain Zack Novak


Notebook: Trey Burke turns in record-setting performance, and more notes

Photo gallery

Boxscore | Top 25 scores | Big Ten scores

Michigan has now wrapped up a first-round bye in next week's Big Ten Tournament, and can't finish worse than a No. 3 seed overall.

Hardaway finished with his best overall performance since putting up 26 points in Michigan's Big Ten-opening win over Penn State in January. The 6-foot-6 sophomore wing went 6-for-7 from the floor, and shot 4-for-4 from 3-point range.

The double-double was Hardaway's second of the season and third of his career.

Burke, meanwhile, ended his night with 21 points and five assists. With an assist early in the second half, Burke broke ex-Wolverine point guard Gary Grant's single-season freshman record. The rookie from Columbus now has 144 assists on the season.

"I didn't even know about that until recently," said Burke, whose team still hasn't lost two straight games this season. "That's a blessing in disguise."

Illinois (17-13, 6-11) has now dropped 10 of its last 12, and now appears to be in grave danger of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether.

"We just didn't seem to have any answers against them," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "You look at Hardaway's shooting over the last five or for the season, it's nowhere near (this).

"But today he was special."

Michigan shook off any rust from its previous loss against Purdue early on, as Burke capped off a personal 8-0 run with a two-handed slam -- his first of the season -- to give the Wolverines a 22-14 edge midway through the first.

The lead grew to 11 five minutes later after a reverse layup from senior captain Zack Novak, and up to as many as 13 after a Burke jumper with less than four minutes to go.

Illinois did manage to get back within single digits before the half, though, scoring the final five points of the frame to make it 35-27 Michigan.

The Illini kept coming after the break, as well, getting six early points inside from Meyers Leonard during a 9-2 push to draw within one.

But thanks to a surge by Hardaway, Illinois got no closer.

Hardaway rattled off 11 straight Michigan points, keeping the Illini at bay. And after Burke found Jordan Morgan underneath for a dunk with 7:48 to go, the Wolverines found themselves in control once again, up 53-44.

Illinois got back within five late, but ran out of gas, as Michigan went 14-for-16 from the free throw line during the game's final four minutes. Michigan went 21-for-23 from the foul line for the game.

The win also pulled Michigan even on the road in the Big Ten at 4-4, answering any questions about the team's ability to win away from Crisler Center.

"Everyone kept wondering when we'd win on the road," Novak said. "But everyone in here knew we were typically good on the road, .500 on the road in this conference is pretty darn good.

"And now, we've got a chance to make it 5-4."

Novak finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Morgan ended his night with seven points and seven rebounds.

Leonard paced Illinois with 18 points and nine rebounds.

The Wolverines have already secured their best Big Ten season in 18 years, but still have work to do.

And, if Michigan can do its part on Sunday, it'll be in the unique position of rooting for rival Ohio State. But for now, that's not on the radar.

Lose to Penn State, and none of it matters anyway.

"It'd be different if we were playing Michigan State for the championship, but some things, we have no control over," Novak said. "We're focused 100 percent on Penn State and we know we've got to win."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

M Hoops!! Go Blue! v


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Man, what a game by Hardaway and Burke. Hard to stop either of those guys. You gotta like our chances when they play like that. But cripes, that god-awful Purdue loss is just sitting in the rear view mirror like a splotch of seagull guano on the rear windshield. I can't stop thinking about it. Having to root for OSU this weekend? Or even care about their game? Gross.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Yup, keep focused on Penn State and we can be very proud of our season. There's nothing we can do about OSU vs. MSU so just let it go. Control what you can control.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

That WAS indeed one cool game...but, this belongs on the Sports Page.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

What a great game from Michigan. They withstood the challenge of a comeback on the road; they shot well, they defended well, they didn't get intimidated by their giant Leonard. whatever Hardaway ate before that game, let's find it and keep giving it to him. He just looked more active, went to the basket rather than hanging out on the wing immobile the whole time as he had a penchant to do, and his shots looked comfortable and not forced, no matter where they were. Loved his double-double, loved the rebounds more than the points. And what can you say about Trey Burke!!?? To eclipse the great Gary Grant (another Ohioan) is just amazing and he has such control of that team. And finally, Morgan stepped up and played tough and he continues to be a key to this team. What a great team win. Go blue.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

At a time when Hardaway's performance had become questionable, it was great to see him have such a game. I hope he can sustain it. The Wolverines are a much better team with Hardaway performing well.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

I'm going to have to side with mookienation... in football 'Ohio' is our biggest rival, in everything else it's definitely Michigan St. I was going to be rooting against MSU this weekend regardless of the opponent. With a chance for a long overdue big ten title at stake it's a no brainer. GO BLUE!


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 7:45 a.m.

The Big Ten title is still within reach! whooohooo!

robert mw

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 7:28 a.m.

Oh wow, what a game by Hardaway Jr.! Great job bouncing back once again by the Wolverines, I didn't realize it had been 17 years since Michigan last won at Illinois. Don't overlook Penn State this week; the Nittany Lions already beat Illinois and Purdue this year, and just had a close contest over Northwestern. Regardless of what happens in East Lansing, Michigan can still close the season winning 6 of 7 games and wrap up a top 2 finish in the conference.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 6:02 a.m.

aarox, your comments are baffling man, whenever I read your comments, I'm not sure if you're really an M fan, confusing. As for the B1G Title, I wonder what happens if there is a 3 way tie. What is the tie-breaker? Will they do it like the BCS and go by rankings? If that's the case than we will be 3rd, I'm not so sure I wouldn't mind MSU winning and we finish 2nd, because I fear Purdue will finish 6th and if we're a 3rd seed we would play the Boilers and they are a bad match-up for us. We must beat PSU to even have a chance still. Just musing that's all, don't get me wrong, I would love to win at least a share of the title. I want us to go further in the Conference Tourney so that we could get a higher seed in the NCAA's, I'm looking at the big picture.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Sorry I'm baffling you, man. Hopefully MSU loses Sunday and we get a share of a title we haven't had since the mid 1980's. What else is confusing you??


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Think you confused now? Take a look at the tie breaker for tournament seeding! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:36 a.m.

I have to root for OSU so we can back into this title. It's been 25 years for us.


Sat, Mar 3, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

Uh. whatever. It's not backing into a title when you finish with the best (or a tie for the best) record. Your block M doesn't hide the fact that you're not a Michigan fan. If OSU (a team UM beat) beats MSU (another team UM beat) and UM wins, then UM has EARNED their share of the title. If all of that doesn't happen, then UM won't have earned it. But if they do, it's not at all 'backing' into the title.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:48 a.m.

Am I the only Michigan fan that hates MSU more than OSU? I'd be cheering for the Buckeyes no matter what the circumstance this Sunday. This isn't football. Also, does anyone else remember when the Fab Five lost to a horrid Northwestern team with the Big Ten title on the line? Let's not look past Penn State. Stranger things have happened. Nice game tonight Wolverines. Especially Tim Junior. Go Blue!


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 7:34 a.m.

I will root for OSU more than MSU, specially now that OSU will be playing for UM's share of the Big Ten title if UM takes care of Penn State. hehehe


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:38 a.m.

We aren't even on MSU's radar anymore. Don't fret it.

Terry Star21

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:24 a.m.

Hard to remember the last time (if ever) our friends at Eastern Michigan (both teams first in their division) and our men's/women's teams have finished so high with so many wins. Kudos to Washtenaw County College Basketball.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

Go Bucks,Now i have to take a shower.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

that pretty much sums it up. Its like having to eat a load of crap for $100,000.00.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:47 a.m.

Now the commentary must start -- to root for &quot;That Team down in Ohio&quot; or to not root for &quot;That Team down in Ohio.&quot;