Wolverines Rise in Face of Adversity, Advance to B1G Quarters

March 9, 2017

» Michigan earned a decisive win to advance to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals despite the team's plane accident that took place yesterday. U-M was forced to fly to Washington, D.C., this morning and arrived at the Verizon Center less than two hours before tipoff.
» Four players finished with double-digit points -- Derrick Walton Jr. (19), Zak Irvin (18), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (18) and D.J. Wilson (11).
» Michigan led wire to wire, holding at least an eight-point advantage for the last 34 minutes of the game.
» With the win, U-M head coach John Beilein surpassed Johnny Orr to become the winningest coach at Michigan with 210 wins.

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Site: Washington, D.C. (Verizon Center)
Event: Big Ten Tournament (Second Round)
Score: Michigan 75, Illinois 55
Records: U-M (21-11), ILL (18-14)
Next U-M Event: Friday, March 10 -- vs. Purdue - Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals (Washington, D.C.), Noon [ TV: ESPN ]

• Kornacki Postgame Feature: Stories of 24 Hours with the Wolverines

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team went through a whirlwind over the past 24 hours but rose to the occasion in its first game of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, earning a remarkable 20-point win, 75-55, over Illinois on Thursday afternoon (March 9) inside the Verizon Center.

With the victory, U-M head coach John Beilein surpassed legendary coach Johnny Orr for most wins at Michigan, earning his 210th win in memorable fashion. The win will be memorable for Beilein and the Wolverines for multiple reasons, as Michigan's road to the nation's capital was anything but smooth.

Following an accident with the team's plane Wednesday afternoon (March 8), everyone on board was evacuated safely. Michigan made alternate travel arrangements, and its flight landed in Washington, D.C., at 9 a.m. this morning. Despite arriving at the Verizon Center less than two hours before tipoff and having to wear practice uniforms due to their game uniforms being left behind on the damaged plane, the Wolverines took no time getting into a groove.

Moritz Wagner opened all scoring with a long two to spark an 11-2 run to start postseason play. Another deep Wagner jumper from the corner and a three-pointer from Zak Irvin capped the run at 15:26. Illinois got its second field goal at the 15-minute mark, and then a rare four-point play by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman gave the Maize and Blue an 11-point edge, 15-4, less than six minutes into the game.

Energetic play and team defense helped limit Illinois' chances through the first 10 minutes. Leading 22-11 after Irvin found D.J. Wilson for a transition alley-oop, Michigan scored nine unanswered points to push its lead to 20, 31-11, with seven minutes left in the opening half.

Sixth-year senior Tracy Abrams then caught fire for the Illini, scoring the first 10 points of a 12-0 Illinois run to make it a single-digit game, 31-23, with 4:30 on the clock. Michigan outscored Illinois 9-6 in the final four minutes, highlighted by five points from Abdur-Rahkman, and U-M led 40-29 at the halftime break.

Leading 45-34 early in the second half, the Wolverines constructed an 11-2 run, including six straight points to end the streak. Abdur-Rahkman converted back-to-back layups, with the latter coming on a back-door cut and a long bounce pass from Derrick Walton Jr., and then Abdur-Rahkman picked up a steal and found Irvin in transition for the score, making in a 54-36 game in U-M's favor at the 13:20 mark.

Michigan had an answer for every Illinois field goal, as the Wolverines maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game. The Illini pulled within 10 points, 62-52, with four minutes remaining, but Walton helped U-M pull away for good with a pair of triples.

The Wolverines sustained their hustle through the final whistle, as Abdur-Rahkman dove for a loose ball with under two minutes to go and found Irvin for an emphatic two-handed dunk. Wilson made it an even 20-point victory as he drained a corner three with 1:14 to go.

Four Michigan players finished with double-digit points, led by senior captains Walton and Irvin, who scored 19 and 18 points, respectively. Walton also dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds, while Irvin had seven boards. Abdur-Rahkman had a balanced stat line with 18 points, three steals, three rebounds and three assists. Wilson rounded out the players in double figures with 11 points and added six rebounds.

Following the game, Beilein spoke to the Big Ten Network about how the team's chemistry pulled them through the unexpected events of the last 24 hours and led to the win.

The Wolverines will now face top-seeded Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals tomorrow (Friday, March 10) at noon inside the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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Communications Contact: Tom Wywrot

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