ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With only two games left before the Big Ten Tournament, the University of Michigan men's basketball team made a huge statement Wednesday night (Feb. 21), defeating the No. 8/8 Illinois Fighting Illini 72-64, in front of 13,164 fans at Crisler Arena. Down at the break, the Wolverines (18-7, 8-6 Big Ten) clawed back with five three-pointers, three of them from senior guard Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS), to begin the second half. The win marks the Wolverines' first win over a top-10 opponent since March 8, 1998 when they overtook No. 9 Purdue.
Horton scored 25 of his 39 points after intermission to fuel Michigan's comeback.
Horton finished with a career high 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc. The Cedar Hill native also went a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul-line, while dishing out three assists and collecting two steals in 38 minutes of action. Horton's 39 points is the most points from any player in the Big Ten this season.
Junior center Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) recorded 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting, while netting 5-of-5 shots from the charity stripe. Sims also accounted for eight rebounds, four assists, and a block.
Coming into the game, the Illini (22-5, 8-5 Big Ten) were out-rebounding opponents by 7.4 boards per-game, but failed to top the Wolverines that tore down 30 rebounds, compared to Illinois' 27. Leading the defensive charge for the Maize and Blue was senior forward Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS) who came away with 10 boards, his ninth double-digit rebounding performance on the season.
The Wolverines and Illini battled through the first eight minutes of the ball game, leading to a 15-9 Illinois advantage. Using a trapping style of defense, which they abandoned during the early moments of the teams' previous match-up in January, the Illini were able to force six turnovers during the spurt, gaining a six-point lead at 11:54. Keeping Michigan within striking distance was Horton, who collected all nine of the Wolverines points. Horton could not be stopped, connecting on shots from every part of the court, including a mid-range jumper followed by a three-point strike and a pair of floaters.
Horton then spread the ball around, finding junior forward Brent Petway (McDonough Ga./Griffin HS) for a rim-rattling dunk, before his mid-range pull-up at 9:41 trimmed the deficit to 17-13. Following a lay-in by freshman guard Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS), Sims and sophomore wing Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) got into the action as Sims found Coleman for a three pointer from the corner. Coleman then returned the favor on the next trip down the floor dishing to Sims down low, bringing the Wolverines to within one, at 21-20 with 7:31 remaining in the half.
Out of the media timeout at 7:20, Brown passed out of a double-team to an open Horton, who netted his second three pointer of the ball game, giving the Maize and Blue its first lead of the game at 23-21. The excitement was short lived however, as Illinois responded with a 6-0 run, recapturing the lead. Michigan would hit just two more baskets the rest of the half, a put in by Sims and a three pointer by Smith, as the Wolverines trailed 34-30 at the break.
Coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Wolverines scorched the twine, exploding with a three-point barrage, drilling five straight shots from three-point land to open the second half. Connecting on three of the five trifectas was Horton, giving him five three pointers on the night. Coleman's long-ball at 16:50, recaptured the Michigan lead at 42-40 and the Horton three that followed made it a 45-43 contest.
The Wolverines next three baskets came from Horton stretching the Michigan advantage to 51-48 with just over 12 minutes left to play. Following the continued brilliance of Horton, Smith would find Petway who broke away from the pack for a one handed slam that almost popped the roof off of Crisler Arena. With the crowd in a frenzy, the Illini tried to counteract with a comeback, and would remain within a basket throughout much of the contest, until Horton stretched the Michigan advantage, tallying the Wolverines' final eight points. The Maize and Blue finished with 15 of their final 19 points coming from the free throw line, icing a 72-64 victory.
With two games remaining in the Big Ten schedule, Michigan will hit the road to Value City Arena for a game at Ohio State Saturday (Feb. 25) to close out this week's slated action. Tipoff is schedule for 1:30 p.m. with the game broadcast nationally on CBS. The Wolverines close out the regular season with a mid-week bye followed with the finale and "Senior Night" against Indiana (March 4). The tipoff time against the Hoosiers has been determined for a 2:31 p.m. tipoff as part of the ESPN-Plus, regional package.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423