Entering this game, both teams needed a win that would put an exclamation mark on their NCAA resumes. Illinois had beaten North Carolina, Wisconsin in Champaign-Urbana, and then-ranked Michigan State, but had fallen apart down the stretch and went 9-9 in conference play. The Fighting Illini suffered sweeps at the hands of Purdue and Ohio State, and lost their rematch with Wisconsin. Going 1-5 against the top three teams in the conference did not help Bruce Weber's team at all. Neither did a 61-57 setback at the hands of the Michigan State team that they had beaten.
Michigan, on the other hand, got off to a brutal start in Big Ten play, losing 6 games in a row and struggling to a 1-6 start in conference play. But then Michigan beat Michigan State on their home court for the first time in over a decade, a win that would get the Wolverines rolling down the stretch. After suffering a sweep at the hands of Wisconsin via a game-winning 3 by Josh Gasser, the Wolverines picked themselves up and won their last two games to finish 9-9 in Big Ten play.
The Michigan Wolverines lost their only contest with Illinois in the regular season, a 54-52 decision in Champaign-Urbana that snapped a 3 game Michigan winning streak (over Penn State, Northwestern, and Indiana). In that game, MIchigan lost the rebounding battle to the Fighting Illini 38-32 and came up just short on a Stu Douglass miss as time expired.
This time, though, Illinois got off to an early lead, seizing a 34-23 lead at the half. But Michigan never quit, driving repeatedly on the Illini, who simply went cold from outside and inside. a long gap in which Illinois couldn't get a field goal allowed Michigan to tie the game late in the second half. And then Michigan took the lead, one it would not relinquish. Illinois fouled Michigan over and over, but the Wolverines made their free throws and ousted Bruce Weber's Illini, advancing to the semifinals against rival Ohio State.
Michigan had three players score in double-figures: Darius Morris with 17, Tim Hardaway Jr. with 16, and Zack Novak with 13. Morris, who had one of the best assists per game figures in the nation, had a team-high 7 assists to pace the Wolverines, along with 4 rebounds. Stu Douglass had just 3 points, but he had a team-high 7 rebounds and 4 assists of his own. Michigan as a team had 13 assists to 10 turnovers.
Illinois also had 3 players in double figures, but all three scored exactly 10 points: Dimitri McCamey, Brandon Paul, and Mike Tisdale. Bill Cole had 9 points, and Mike Davis 8. Tisdale and Cole led Illinois with 7 rebounds each. McCamey had a team-high 5 assists; Brandon Paul and Tisdale had 4 assists each. But it would be turnovers that did in the Illini, Illinois had 16 assists and 13 turnovers, and only had one more rebound than Michigan.
Michigan now plays Ohio State. For Illinois, it's going to be an anxious couple of days before Selection Sunday.