In an attempt to avenge their blowout road loss earlier this season, the Michigan Wolverines invited the Illinois Fighting Illini to Crisler Center for the first time this season. In a battle of teams with 2-4 records in the conference Illinois was attempting to snap a two game losing skid and back up their earlier comments which stated Michigan was a “white collar team.”
In what appeared to be a jab at the Illini’s “white collar” comments, the Wolverines wore their blue uniforms for the first time this season at home. Taking this game very seriously were the nearly 100 Fighting Illini students who made the trip to Ann Arbor to cheer on their school.
D.J. Wilson was the best player on the floor in the first half, never turning the ball over once. He was one of the lucky ones, as turnovers plagued both teams in the first half, allowing Michigan’s defense to finally get some stops. If it were not for their spotty offense performance, the Wolverines may have lead by more than ten points at halftime.
Illinois could not hold on to the ball in the second half and Michigan did not let up. A poor scoring output in the first half led Derrick Walton Jr to start attacking the hoop, resulting in a double-double for the Michigan guard. The streaky Illinois could no repeat against the Wolverines as Michigan would come out on top 66-57.
Here is what we learned throughout this game:
What We Learned:
1. Is that a defense I see?
With Michigan’s defense playing so poorly this season, it was a surprise to see how many stops they got throughout the game. Illinois’ 24 first half points was the lowest amount allowed by Michigan in Big Ten play this season and the lowest an opponent has scored on Michigan in the first half since Maryland Eastern Shore. It was a refreshing look for Michigan fans, who saw their team surrender 49 first half points on the road to Illinois just a few weeks ago.
Illinois’ points per possession were far lower than the 1.57 PPP they registered against the Wolverines in Champagne, IL. If generating turnovers is what it takes for the Wolverines to get stops, I am sure they will take it.
2. No white collar teams here.
Fair or not, Illinois forward Maverick Morgan called Michigan a white collar team following the Illini’s 16 point blow out over the Wolverines. But what is a guy to say when his team just out-rebounded the Wolverines by 13 and Michigan’s lone offensive output came off a few contested jumpers?
However, the Wolverines used these comments as motivation, as many thought they would. The Wolverines were gritty, getting inside and taking the ball to the hoop with regularity. Shooting fewer three point shots than usual, Derrick Walton took the ball to the basket a number of times in the second half.
Post game DJ Wilson said he takes it personally when his team was referred to as white collar and said he played with an extra chip on his shoulder.
3. The bad Illinois team showed up.
The always streaky Fighting Illini did nothing short of solidify the thought that they are one of the most hit-and-miss teams in the Big Ten. Unfortunately for Illinois fans that Illini were cold from the opening tip.
This did not even look like the same team that routed Michigan in Champagne earlier this season. Turnovers were a problem more so for Illinois, who coughed the ball up on nearly a third of their possessions.
This game had the feeling similar to that of a Big 12 college football game. The first one to 70 would win. Neither team got there, but neither team has a great defense.
While Michigan’s defensive efforts were surprising, they were in no way indicative of how this team has played all season. Each team will not have a key upcoming stretch as they look to move up in the Big Ten standings.