Atop the Big Ten Mountain: U-M Stifles Illini for Outright Title
Jon Horford

March 4, 2014

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Site: Champaign, Ill. (State Farm Center)
Score: #12 Michigan 84, Illinois 53
Records: U-M (22-7, 14-3 Big Ten), Illinois (17-13, 6-11 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, March 8 -- vs. Indiana (Crisler Center), 6 p.m. [TV: ESPN]

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Sophomore Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark's School [Mass.]) scored 24 points on 7-of-9 three-point shooting as the University of Michigan men's basketball team (No. 12 AP, No. 12 ESPN/USA Today) overwhelmed Illinois, 84-53, on Tuesday night (March 4) at the State Farm Center. The victory clinched the regular-season Big Ten title for the Wolverines, the first time they have won the conference outright since the 1985-86 season.

As a team, Michigan shot 16-of-23 (70 percent) from three, tying the team record for most made three-point field goals in a single game (U-M last did it against Houston Baptist on Dec. 7, 2013). Sophomore Caris LeVert (Pickerington, Ohio/Central) scored 15 points, and his classmate Glenn Robinson III (St. John, Ind./Lake Central) posted 13 points and five rebounds. Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. (Harper Woods, Mich./Chandler Park Academy) also filled the stat sheet, posting nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.

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Michigan took a 7-2 lead at the 17:30 mark -- and led the rest of the game -- after a Walton three and layup from graduate student Jordan Morgan (Detroit, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit). Nnanna Egwu hit a jumper from the wing that brought Illinois within three points of the lead at 14-11, but Walton made an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Wolverines up by six with 13:50 remaining in the first half.

Freshman Zak Irvin (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) hit a triple in the corner to give the Maize and Blue its first double-digit lead of the night, making the score 23-13 at 11:08, and minutes later Stauskas knocked down another three from the opposite corner to put U-M ahead 26-17. Egwu had a tip-in to cut the deficit to nine points, but sophomore Spike Albrecht (Crown Point, Ind./Northfield Mount Hermon Prep [Mass.]) and Irvin hit back-to-back triples to gain a 32-17 lead with 8:12 to play in the first half. Those six points were the first of 10 straight by Michigan, and Robinson's fast-break dunk brought the score to 36-17 and forced Illinois to call timeout at 7:22.

Another Irvin three -- at 4:00 -- gave the Wolverines their first 20-point lead at 44-24. The Fighting Illini went on a 6-0 run to make the score 46-30 with 1:06 before halftime, but a Robinson three put Michigan back on top by 19, and a Stauskas triple at the buzzer made the score 52-30 going into the break.

Nik Stauskas

The Wolverines shot 19-of-28 (68 percent) in the first half, including 11-of-14 (79 percent) from three. Stauskas had 14 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting from long distance, while Irvin knocked all three of his attempts from downtown before halftime. Illinois went 13-of-24 (54 percent) on field goals in the first and 2-of-8 (25 percent) on three-point attempts.

Stauskas scored Michigan's first seven points of the half, and his three at 15:04 put U-M up 59-32. The Illini responded with seven straight points to come within 20 points of the lead, but LeVert and Stauskas had consecutive triples to make the score 66-41 with 9:32 left in the game.

Junior Jon Horford's (Grand Ledge, Mich./Grand Ledge) dunk at 7:12 put U-M up 30 at 73-43, and Michigan ended the game ahead 31.

U-M shot 29-of-51 (57 percent) in the title-clinching game, while Illinois finished the night shooting 20-of-52 (39 percent) from the floor, including only 2-of-18 (11 percent) from three. Morgan sat out the second half for the Wolverines with an injury, and Horford grabbed 10 rebounds while scoring two points to fill his absence. Rayvonte Rice led the Illini with 16 points and nine rebounds, and Nunn finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

The Wolverines close out the regular season against Indiana on Saturday (Mar. 8) inside Crisler Center. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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