Rushed Reactions: #8 Michigan 64, Illinois 63Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament action between Michigan and Illinois in Indianapolis.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Illinois showcased great resilience. When the Illini fell behind by 13 at the 16:13 mark of the second half, they could have easily wilted under the pressure that was being strongly applied by top-seeded Michigan. Instead Illinois switched up its defense, made some timely shots, and battled to the very end. After Michigan shot 52 percent in the first half and made its first four shot attempts of the second against Illinois’ straight man-to-man defense, Illini coach John Groce switched into a 2-3 zone for nearly the rest of the game. This switch caused major issues for the Michigan offense, as it only made four of its final 18 shot attempts. The strong defense led to an effective offense and those coupled together led to Illinois being in the game until the final buzzer sounded.
- Michigan is terrific at keeping its composure in late-game situations. When Michigan has needed to make a winning play this season, it has succeeded and that is one of the major reasons why John Beilein‘s squad took home the regular season outright Big Ten title. For example, Michigan needed to make a winning play with 2.9 seconds left in overtime at Purdue in late February and the team executed a play to perfection that resulted in a game-winning buzzer-beating shot from Glenn Robinson III. Michigan needed a winning play again Saturday when it trailed 63-62 with 19 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Wolverines sophomore guard Nik Stauskas drove the lane before dishing a gorgeous pass to senior forward Jordan Morgan for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal.
- Michigan is at its best when Glenn Robinson III is aggressive. The sophomore’s assertiveness in the first half helped Michigan build a five-point halftime lead – a lead that turned out to be extremely important. Robinson III found great success during the opening 20 minutes by attacking the rim and either making a layup or getting fouled. He finished the opening half with 11 points on eight shot attempts. The second half was a different story for the sophomore, as he was stymied by the Illinois zone and only managed four points on three shot attempts. Throughout the first two years of Robinson’s Michigan career the theme has been when he is aggressive, good things happen for the Wolverines. That theme continued against Illinois and it is reasonable to believe it will continue throughout this postseason.
Star of the Game. Jordan Morgan, Michigan. It might seem odd that the star of the game finished with just four points and six rebounds in 23 minutes of action, but the senior forward was extremely crucial to the winning effort. The fact that he was limited to just nine second half minutes due to foul trouble was a significant issue for Michigan, as Morgan serves as the anchor of the Wolverines’ defensive effort. Back on the court near the end of the game, Morgan made his presence known on offense, as he received a pass from Nik Stauskas and converted a lay-in with seven seconds left that turned out to be the game-winner.
- “They (Illinois) proved how good they were, and, fortunately, we got some good bounces around the basket to finish the game.” – Michigan coach John Beilein, referencing how his team was able to close out the game despite a tenacious effort from Illinois.
- “I just put it on the rim and got a nice roll.” – Michigan forward Jordan Morgan, describing his shot that proved to be the game-winner for the Wolverines.
- “Of course, we wanted to make it and get a little upset, but you’ve got to keep moving on and keep learning from these experiences.” – Illinois guard Tracy Abrams, referring to the floater he missed as the buzzer sounded.
Sights and Sounds. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was split about evenly with Michigan and Illinois fans and both factions made their presence known throughout. You usually get subpar crowds for the early game on a weekday at a conference tournament, but that was far from the case Friday afternoon. Former Illinois standout guard Brandon Paul was seated in the front row of the Illinois section and made his allegiance to the Illini well-known from start to finish.
Wild Card. How much did Michigan struggle with Illinois’ 2-3 zone? Wolverines sharpshooters Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert finished the afternoon a combined 5-of-17 from behind the three-point line.
What’s Next. Michigan advances to the Big Ten semifinals Saturday afternoon where it will face archrival Ohio State. Illinois will likely take the floor again when the NIT begins next week.