The Wolverines continued their undefeated campaign with a road win over a feisty but mediocre Illinois squad. Despite a halftime lead, it was an uneasy first half: the Wolverines were bothered at times by the Illini’s pressure defense and had 11 turnovers, and Illinois’s speedy freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu poured in 19 points. While the Wolverines weren’t ever able to pull away from the Illini, they stopped turning it over, shut down Dosunmu, and wound up winning.
Michigan dominated to start the game. The Wolverines scored on three straight possessions to open an 8-0 lead and played excellent defense, but Illinois ran a set for an alley-oop layup to Dosunmu to get on the board. Michigan maintained a ten-point lead when Illinois went on a run midway through the half. That run featured Illinois—who forces the 13th most turnovers of any team in college basketball—turning up the pressure on the perimeter and forcing Michigan into mistakes.
As they settled in, Illinois was able to dictate the pace and style of play — there were 75 possessions, the most of any Michigan game this season. Dosunmu pushed the pace well in the latter parts of the first half, turning missed shots or steals into transition opportunities where he could get all the way to the rim. Illinois was only able to cut the deficit to three for one possession before Zavier Simpson found Jon Teske from a double for an elbow jumper. There was a sequence of ugly basketball before Charles Matthews scored again on an offensive rebound, then Simpson found Tekse from another double for a dunk.
Despite succumbing to Illinois’s frenetic, sloppy aesthetic, the Wolverines managed to hold onto a decent lead for most of the half. Jordan Poole scored seven points within a minute — making two free throws after getting fouled in the post, hitting an open wing three after a near turnover by Simpson, and then two more free throws after a Brad Underwood technical. Illinois came back again because of Dosunmu — he knocked down an open corner three and banked in another three over Teske on a switch for the last two Illini possessions of the half. Michigan still led, 39-34.
The tenor of the game didn’t change after halftime. Dosunmu hoisted a terrible three, then chased down Simpson for his second emphatic transition block on Michigan’s point guard. Simpson, who had 8 assists to just 2 turnovers, took over from there: he worked the pick-and-pop for a Jon Teske three, beat the Illini down the floor for a layup, forced an offensive foul from Trent Frazier, and ran a pick-and-roll to get Teske an easy and-one. Michigan’s tight, six-man rotation each had bright spots (and each scored at least nine points), but Simpson and Teske—who had 4 blocks and affected several more shots—were particularly outstanding.
With under 14 minutes left in the game, a key sequence briefly got Illinois back into the game: a long outlet pass from Teske wound up in a failed Poole-to-Iggy alley-oop, and Da’Monte Williams quickly hit a three to trim the deficit to five. Iggy responded with a tough bucket on Kipper Nichols; Simpson picked Trent Frazier’s pocket for an easy two; Simpson found Teske on the short roll, who found Matthews cutting for a dunk. Michigan’s lead was back to 11, and while Illinois never let the Wolverines pull away, they weren’t able to threaten Michigan from there.
There were some highlights down the stretch — Teske flattened Simpson’s defender on a screen and Simpson dribbled into a three; Isaiah Livers blocked a three, got a long outlet from Teske, and threw down a dunk. There was a lot of intentional fouling, as Illinois extended the game and inflated the score. There was a double technical after Iggy and Dosunmu got into it after a whistle late. Illinois made it sporadically uncomfortable and Michigan wasn’t able to turn it into a rout, but it was a game that went as expected (Kenpom projected a 10-point win) and the Wolverines are 16-0.
[Box score after the JUMP]