[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan 79, Illinois 69 Comment Count

Alex Cook January 10th, 2019 at 11:51 PM

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]

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January 11th, 2019 at 9:27 AM ^

Good team, all starters in double figures. Not the most efficient game but it was nice to see we could grind out a win even when Iggy and Charles don't play their best games. Charles does seem to just have some built-in flaws but still a solid role player, he just can't seem to hit jumpers or have a good a-to ration, oh well. Livers is awesome, great sixth man.


January 11th, 2019 at 9:39 AM ^

Matthews if very solid, but man, he is definitely the most frustrating player for me.  My expectations are just higher for him than others.  It's like, he does everything right, but the last 2%.

His spin fadeaway jumper is beautiful - but when he struggles, he really friggin struggles to make them.  And he seems to have the most inopportune turnovers.

But damn, he is still a great all-around player.  Its just that his potential is through the roof, and he still won't come close to it at Michigan.


January 11th, 2019 at 9:59 AM ^

Yeah, agreed. He is a GR3 type player with a higher ceiling. GR3 left a year too early for the NBA, I think he really could have used another year of coaching from Beilein. They'll both be solid-ish bench players for 15 years in the NBA I think, they have too much athleticism to peter out.


January 11th, 2019 at 3:14 PM ^

Agreed, their games are nothing alike in terms of how they play and what they can do but at the same time they're pretty similar. Both get a lot of their baskets at the rim, both inconsistent, both will be/are okay nba players but nothing fantastic, both have difficulty creating off the dribble.


January 11th, 2019 at 10:51 AM ^

Interesting game as you say, because you can make the argument that none of our Big 3 had a great night. I think the assumption has always been that at least one will be on, and most likely 2 make it an easy night. I’m going to give this win to the new Big 3, if only for a night Simpson, Teske and Freethrows!  

We actually hit our freethrows for a night, and that is what kept a game where we were in control from buzzer to buzzer from being a nail biter.  Will it happen again? Maybe not, but that is why we have the first Big 3, so we don’t need it to happen nightly.

Rick Grimes

January 11th, 2019 at 12:19 AM ^

I'm curious as to why Michigan's rotation played out as it did. How come Johns didn't play at all? Why didn't Brooks play more? I'm glad things worked out well in the end, but I thought the team could have used more of a lineup shakeup at times during those rough patches. 


January 11th, 2019 at 12:26 AM ^

Playing Johns while the team was already turnover prone in the 1st half is a risky proposition considering his knowledge of the offense isn't fully developed especially on the road. Davis may be a liability, but he knows where to go at least. 

I'm guessing Beilein kept Simpson in longer than usual because his feisty defense and scoring (never thought I'd say that) kept Illinois from making it a less than a 5 point game. Plus, he was dishing out some dimes on offense. 


January 11th, 2019 at 12:36 AM ^

My guess is because Illinois played a smaller squad that was moving very quickly and Brandon Johns is just not schooled enough to know where to be at that pace. 


And to keep him chomping at the bit. We didn't need him for Illinois, but unleash him against a squad where we do need him and he just may be a difference-maker.


But what do I know, I'm just a goofball!




January 11th, 2019 at 12:40 AM ^

Well, Teske was awesome and not in foul trouble so he went 33 minutes.  That's a lot.  So not a lot of minutes for his backups.  2 went to Davis cuz Illinois had a couple traditional bigs that he matched up with ok (I thought his foul was pretty ticky tack, fwiw).  Possibly also didn't want to put Johns in against a high pressure trapping defense.

And Livers is going to play the five when they go small.  They did that for 5 min tonight.

Johns only played the last game because Livers was out and the others were in foul trouble.

Surprised Brooks played so little given that Poole played pretty badly (I would imagine Yak is going to have a word with him about his lazy reach around transition defense).  But also possible Beilein didn't like Brooks against Illinois' high pressure D.


January 11th, 2019 at 10:54 AM ^

I have a different take then below. I think Johns didn’t play because somehow he hasn’t earned it in practice. With Livers out and Austin Davis a foul a minute, we couldn’t go without him the other night, but I think with Illinois so small it would have been ideal for Johns, and he just didn’t get the time, because he hasn’t earned it yet. Here is hoping he puts in the work, so he can explode on the scene in Feb/March. We are going to need him.


January 11th, 2019 at 12:22 AM ^

The stats were pretty even except for the free throw shooting. I'll take 18-22 every game with these guys.  It was fun to see Brendon Gleeson again - loved him in "In Bruges" but didn't know he had changed careers to include coaching.


Nice T you earned, Brendon!

A Lot of Milk

January 11th, 2019 at 1:11 AM ^

Total non-sequitur, but I'm really not a fan of Big Ten schools choosing to have the outline of their states at mid-court. Like, guys, none of you really have iconic silhouettes. Illinois does it, Ohio State does it, Rutgers does it, and Nebraska does it??? Nebraska, what could you possibly think is impressive about the outline of your state? It's almost indistinguishable from all the other states in that area. The only state that could pull it off is Michigan and neither us or Sparty decided to do that to our court. Oh, and Oregon's court is ugly as sin 

/end rant


January 11th, 2019 at 1:12 AM ^

That was an impressive jacket throw tonight. Not in the league of Marcus Hall epic double bird but not bad.

I was happy to see Livers play tonight. Hope his back troubles are behind him, so to speak.  One more point from him and there would have been six guys scoring in double digits. Not easy with a team total of 80. Nice balance.


January 11th, 2019 at 2:18 AM ^

Really they won the game on the boards.  Out rebounding them by 5 OREBs is what gave Michigan so many more shot opps.  Same number of TOs.  So winning the board battle allowed M to shoot one more FG and 15 (!) more FTs (also Brad Underwood gave M a couple).  That's about 8 more possessions that ended in a shot of some sort.  That was difference.


January 11th, 2019 at 6:22 AM ^

Charles Matthews cannot shoot (except from point blank range).  It would be nice to see +/- data on players as I know his defense is good but I have to believe we are a better team with Livers in the lineup vs. Matthews.

Matthews shot chart Illinois.jpg


January 11th, 2019 at 7:32 AM ^

I feel for Charles.  He came back this year to demonstrate growth at the offensive end of the floor, which includes adding a shooting counter to driving the lane.  Since he’s not a natural sniper from 3, he settles on developing a step-back move from 8-12 feet, which integrates nicely with his ‘here I come’ inside game.  Trouble is, he can’t hit the jumper for a lick, and I have to wonder if he’s losing NBA draft value.  He has the athleticism to play in the league, along with the work ethic, but his shooting is his Achilles heel.  In balance, though, I think Michigan is a better team with Charles in the lineup, because of his defense and the attention he demands when he gets the ball on the wing.


January 11th, 2019 at 2:15 PM ^

the thing is, he made those mid range shots last year at a decent clip.  he shot 56% from 2 last year.  he's shooting 48% from 2 this year.  take away the dunks and he is likely around 30% from those 8-10 footers.  

plus, he seemed to take more contested shots last year.  he's improved on that this year, yet his % has still declined.  hopefully, it's just a funk that he can get over.

Reggie Dunlop

January 11th, 2019 at 7:44 AM ^

I will not stand for Charles Matthews slander. Yeah hes flawed, and probably not the first rounder he wants to be, but he's the leader of this team. His defense is elite and hes been better both behind the arc and at the stripe this season.  

Issues are turnovers and that midrange jumper is running cold. But we've seen him hit it a billion times. I hope he keeps shooting it. He can hit it. We're not better without him.


January 11th, 2019 at 8:40 AM ^

A billion times?  The first couple games of the season made it look like this was a tool, but he is 0-fer his last three games.  He doesn't have enough of a handle to be a slasher.  Teams are cutting off the drive and forcing the fall back jumper.  And like Z's 3 pointers against NW, Matthews is willing to keep jacking up his short jumpers.

Reggie Dunlop

January 11th, 2019 at 11:04 AM ^

I feel like I'm breaking news here, but you are aware Charles Matthews played for Michigan last year, right? And he hit a lot of those mid-range fades in the B1G and NCAA tournament?

You're just repeating what I posted, but yes, he turns the ball over when he tries to dribble through traffic and he's not very good at finishing through contact at the rim. The fadeaway jumper is a better option for him because he's generally good at it (despite the last few games) and he's not good at the alternative.

Has he made 1,000,000,000 2-point jumpers? No. That's on me. I thought you'd pick up the hyperbole.


January 11th, 2019 at 12:10 PM ^

Your chart shows him being an effective offensive player.  Despite his mid-range being off he still went 5 of 11.  You can't discount his ability to get to the rim to get those shots that he made.  I don't think other players can get some of those.   If his mid-range game had been even ok he'd have had a hugely efficient night.  Unfortunately he's pretty hot/cold but still think he's a plus player on offense and elite on defense.


January 11th, 2019 at 7:35 AM ^

Love this team...would like to see a few more minutes go to the bench guys however.  Not sure why we can't get brooks 10 minutes per game and try to find 5 or so for Johns.  I have a feeling that at some important moment we will need them and I am nervous about the lack of time they get.  Just nitpicking, thought.  First world problems!  


January 11th, 2019 at 8:37 AM ^

This was a team victory, led by Z/X and his BB IQ along with his BB handling skills.  No one really stood out beyond the others, yet everyone stood out with their own contributions.  Poole and Z/X were warriors with very few minutes on the bench.  Brazdeikis didn't push his desire to make layups so stayed in the game with fewer fouls; that was a contribution in itself and kept Illinois off the FT line.

Surprised that Mathews was pulled so quickly in the game after a single early foul but perhaps Beilein wanted to get Livers in the game quickly without starting him over Mathews.

The team aspect is a thing of beauty and really adds to the wonder of this group.  What's the ceiling?  Seems like they could play with anyone.


January 11th, 2019 at 9:43 AM ^

Autobench. Signals no fouls early and we will compensate. Livers had a pretty solid return. Would like to see him take more shots and threes. We only hit 5 three's last night. And the coach seemed pretty intent on keeping the starters and Livers on the floor to avoid any upset possibility especially after a rather sloppy first half.

Man, it's incredible how some teams manage to hit some terrible looking shots against Michigan.


January 11th, 2019 at 8:44 AM ^

Obviously very happy with the team overall.  But It's astounding to me how many opponents end the first half by draining a three against us.  I expect that shot to go in at this point.  


January 11th, 2019 at 12:47 PM ^

That Dosunmu flagrant on Iggy was so bad, seems like the face grab/swipe should have gotten him ejected.  Anyone know what it takes with that type of foul to get kicked out - is it only punches/attempted punches?


January 11th, 2019 at 5:51 PM ^

Well we played like crap but still won comfortably, not a very fun game to watch.


Charles needs to quit it with those mid range jumpers and shorter range turn around jumpers. Gotta be around .5 ppp with those, just go up strong towards the rim or pass it. It's practically a turnover doing what he does now.