CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team suffered a tough loss Wednesday (Feb. 21), dropping a 54-42 decision to Illinois at Assembly Hall. The Wolverines (18-10, 6-7 Big Ten) started the game off hot, battling back and forth with the Fighting Illini throughout the first half. But trouble converting shots down the stretch -- coupled with 20 U-M turnovers -- allowed Illinois to pull away with the victory in the final 20 minutes of play.
Michigan's post players led the Wolverine effort, as freshmen Ekpe Udoh (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe HS) finished with eight points, four rebounds and two blocks. Senior Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) came away with seven points, nine rebounds and one block, while senior Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) scored six points -- all coming on monstrous dunks -- and four boards.
It was primarily U-M's post players that helped Michigan to a 10-4 lead to begin the game as Udoh, Sims and sophomore Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) combined for a 10-2 run during a three-minute span. Though the Wolverines started off strong down low, they suffered a significant loss barely two minutes into the period when Petway retreated to the bench with two personal fouls.
The half was low-scoring for both teams, but the Wolverines' trouble converting from the floor helped the U-M advantage slip away. After leading 10-4, Michigan fell into a two-minute scoring drought, allowing Illinois to battle back to an 11-10 lead at 12:56. U-M kept it tight, responding with back-to-back two-point plays, but finished the frame 2-of-7 from the field.
During that span, Illinois missed 12 shot attempts compared to Michigan's five misses, but offensive rebounds made the difference. The Fighting Illini had seven offensive boards in the final 13 minutes of the first half, allowing them second-chance points and a 23-19 lead heading into the locker rooms.
Trailing by four at the break, Michigan had trouble at the outset of the second half. Illinois came out strong, rattling off a 7-0 run to take the first double-digit lead of the contest, 30-19, with 17:23 remaining. The Wolverines responded with back-to-back buckets from Udoh and Petway, but the Fighting Illini came back with a pair of makes from beyond the arc.
As the frame continued, Michigan created scoring opportunities by forcing Illini misses down low and grabbing defensive boards. But shooting and turnover troubles kept the Wolverines from capitalizing on turnover and transition opportunities, and Illinois made enough shots to keep Michigan down. After hovering around a 10-point deficit for the remainder of the half, the Wolverines ultimately dropped the 54-42 decision.
The Wolverines will complete their Big Ten Conference road schedule this Saturday (Feb. 24) when they travel to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on the Golden Gophers in Williams Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+R at 1:32 p.m. CST.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423