ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team fell just shy in its bid to upset No. 1-ranked Illinois, falling 57-51 to the Fighting Illini Tuesday night (Feb. 8) in front of a sellout crowd of 13,751 at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines (12-12, 3-7 Big Ten) put forth a valiant effort the entire length of the contest, as U-M held a 41-37 lead with less than nine minutes left in the game. However, Michigan fell victim to a 12-1 run that vaulted Illinois (24-0, 10-0 Big Ten) to a 49-42 lead that it would never relinquish.
Sims provided an inside force for the Wolverines, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Sophomore Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS)
led three Wolverines in double figures with a game-high 21 points to go along with a career-high seven rebounds. Sophomore Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School)
added 15 points and four boards, while junior Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS)
chipped in 10 points, including two triples, and five rebounds. The trio had all but five of Michigan's 51 points. Dee Brown led Illinois in the winning effort with 16 points and four steals.
In a tightly contested first half, the Wolverines were able to battle back after the Illini took an early 11-3 advantage five minutes into the ballgame. Harris got Michigan on track with a put-back layup, then followed it up with a free throw to bring the score to 14-6 with 13:31 left to play in the first half.
After an Illinois bucket increased the lead to 16-6, Michigan responded with a 7-2 run to bring the score to 18-13 with 10:26 remaining until halftime. Hunter jump-started the run with a driving layup, which was followed up by Harris' first three-pointer of the game. Sims capped off the U-M run with a bucket down low.
With the Illini holding a 23-15 lead, the Wolverines came out of a timeout and exploded for a 13-1 run to close out the first half. Harrell ignited the Michigan charge with a three from the corner to cut the Illinois lead to 23-18 with 6:39 left. A Brown layup made it a one-possession game, 23-20, and Harris' fadeaway three-pointer from the wing tied the game at 23-23 with 4:03 left before break.
Sims' layup at 2:26 gave Michigan its first lead of the game at 25-23, and another Harris three extended the lead to five points with 1:35 left. Illinois went 0-for-9 in the final 8:47 of the first half, and U-M headed into halftime with a 28-24 advantage. It was Illinois' lowest first-half point total in 24 games this season.
Harris led the way for the Wolverines in the first half with 12 points, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc, and five rebounds. Sims contributed six points, while Chris Hunter added five points and three boards.
Despite James Augustine's layup at 16:53, which was Illinois's first field goal since 8:47, Michigan was able to sustain a 34-26 advantage five minutes into the second half. The Illini then went on a 9-3 run, highlighted by a pair of Luther Head three-pointers, to cut the Michigan lead to 37-35 with 10:53 left in the game.
With Illinois trailing 39-37, Brown produced three steals that led to a 5-2 run, allowing the Illini to take their first lead, 42-41, since 5:49 of the first half. Brown's hustle on the defensive end was the start of a 12-3 run, as Illinois pushed the lead to 49-42 with 3:56 left.
Michigan drew as close as five points, 51-46, with 2:38 to play, but back-to-back buckets by Head and Roger Powell in the final minute put the game out of reach for the Wolverines.
Michigan will look to get back on track Saturday (Feb. 12) when it hosts Michigan State at Crisler Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423