Michigan found calm on the Verizon Center court amidst the chaos that had surrounded the basketball team the past 24 hours. That was bad news for Illinois.
No. 8-seed Michigan jumped out to a 31-11 lead in the first half and cruised to a 75-55 win against No. 9 Illinois in a second-round game at the 2017 Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C.
The Wolverines (21-11) didn’t arrive in Washington until Thursday morning about three hours before the scheduled noon (ET) tip-off. Their charter flight from the Ann Arbor area on Thursday was aborted because of high winds. The plane skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, forcing everyone on the plane to be evacuated. There were no serious injuries but psyches were shaken. Michigan just didn’t play that way.
Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. scored 19 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and produced 5 assists, while the Michigan defense put a clamp on Illinois senior star Malcolm Hill to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round against top-seeded Purdue. Walton was one of four Wolverines to score in double figures; junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 17 points, while senior Zak Irvin scored 18 points and junior D.J. Wilson added 11 points.
Illinois senior guard Tracy Abrams scored 23 points to lead the Illini (18-14) but Hill, who was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection this week, was held to just 4 points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field. Hill had scored in double figures in 25 straight games before Thursday.
Why it happened
Michigan put a potential life-threatening situation behind it and actually used it to galvanize its play. The Wolverines never trailed and led by as many as 20 points in the first half. Even when Illinois went on a 15-2 spurt to cut the lead to seven points, 33-26, Michigan regrouped and took a 40-29 lead into halftime.
What it means
Michigan gets a shot at another win against Purdue. The Wolverines won the regular-season game in Ann Arbor, 82-70, on Feb. 25.
Senior Zak Irvin scored 18 points, including 12 points in the first half as he made 5 of 7 field goals. Irvin was on his game from the get-go and led Michigan’s early surge.
Illinois’ Malcolm Hill was never a factor in this game. Wilson blocked his first field-goal attempt on a layup, a play that epitomized how Michigan would play the rest of the game.
Michigan advances to face No. 1 seed Purdue in a Friday quarterfinal matchup at noon ET. Illinois must now sit and wait to see if it lands in the NCAA Tournament bracket.
Final: Michigan moves on to face Purdue, beats Illinois 75-55. pic.twitter.com/QKoyqgdgSn
— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) March 9, 2017