CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team fought through early foul trouble to hang close against Illinois (No. 7 AP, No. 6 ESPN/USA Today) but fell short, dropping a 79-74 decision Saturday (Jan. 14) in front of a raucous crowd at Assembly Hall. The Illini could not shake the Wolverines despite the efforts of guard Dee Brown, who led all scorers with 26 points that included five three-pointers.
Senior guard Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) led the Wolverines with 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting, in addition to dishing out five assists in 39 minutes of action. Junior center Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) provided a strong effort in the low post, scoring 16 points, including shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line, and blocking two shots. With Sims' first block of the afternoon he became the fourth member of U-M's 150-block club. Junior guard Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) rounded out the Michigan effort, posting 10 points, two assists and a steal.
A Horton jumper with 0:18 left in the contest pulled Michigan to within one, 75-74, and had the Wolverines sitting on the doorstep of coach Tommy Amaker's first victory against the Fighting Illini. However, failed offensive opportunities led to Illinois free throws on the other end, sealing Michigan's fate.
Down 39-28 at the break, the Wolverines clawed back in the second half, chipping away at the lead and eventually cutting the deficit to 50-45 behind senior Lester Abram's (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) three-point bomb with 12:59 left in the game. Junior forward Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS), playing in place of senior forward Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS), who was on the bench in foul trouble, then scored six straight points, including two electrifying dunks, to cut the Illinois lead to 53-51 with just under 11 minutes to play.
Dee Brown stretched the Illini lead to 69-60 by hitting four consecutive three-pointers. Horton would not let the fast-paced Illinois offense run away with the game, igniting a 10-0 Wolverine romp as his eight straight points combined with two Harris free throws to give Michigan a 70-69 lead with just over four minutes to play.
Forward James Augustine put the Illini back in the front with a layup and a pair of free throws, giving Illinois a 73-70 advantage. The Illini outscored U-M 6-4 the rest of the way.
Three consecutive field goals by Brown jump-started the Michigan effort to an early 6-6 tie. With the Illini defense trapping Michigan guards beyond the three-point line, Graham Brown was able outmuscle Illinois defenders in the low post, leading to his hot start. The Wolverines continued to look down low as a Sims bucket and free throw gave Michigan its first lead of the ballgame, 9-8, with 15:48 left in the first half.
Following baskets by Harris and freshman guard Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS), Michigan looked to Sims again, this time backing his way down to another three-point play. The bucket and the foul gave Michigan its largest lead of the afternoon, 16-12, with 10:41 left to play in the first half.
Illinois quickly snatched the lead away from the Wolverines behind the play of Augustine, whose slam dunk at 9:40 ignited a 14-2 Illini run. Augustine finished the first half with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting. Michigan's lone basket during the stretch came from Sims, as his dunk at 8:05 kept the Wolverines within striking distance.
A three-pointer by Illinois guard Jamar Smith increased the Illinois lead to 29-20 with just 6:10 remaining before half. Back-to-back baskets by Harris and Horton brought U-M to within six (34-28) later in the period, but the Illini finished strong, holding to a 39-28 halftime lead.
The Wolverines will home to Crisler Arena and face Northwestern Wednesday (Jan. 14) at 8 p.m. The game against the Wildcats will be part of the ESPN-Plus local package and will also be shown on ESPNU.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423