INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team dropped a 74-60 decision to Illinois (No. 12 Associated Press, No. 13 ESPN/USA Today) in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon (March 13) at Conseco Fieldhouse. After trailing by 15 points, the No. 5-seeded Wolverines (18-11) fought their way back to within three points midway through the second half before the top-seeded Illini (24-5) went on an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach for U-M.
Sims registered four blocks in addition to his 10-points, 12-rebounds double-double.
The Illini defense set the tone early on, causing three U-M turnovers in the first two minutes en route to a 13-5 lead. Brown spearheaded Illinois' offensive efforts, accounting for seven points during the run. Harris was able to get Michigan on the scoreboard with his first triple, while Robinson connected on a tough floater in traffic to keep the Wolverines within reach. With Illinois leading 15-5, Harris scored a quick two on the break and Horton followed with a nice driving layup to cut the deficit to 15-9 and force the Illini to call a timeout at 13:34.
Illinois responded with a 13-4 run over the next five minutes to go up 28-13 with 8:37 remaining in the first half. Sophomore Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) got Michigan back on track with a pair of free throws, and Horton trimmed the Illini lead to 11 points with a slicing lay-in. Sims gave U-M a huge lift with four straight points, backing down his defender for a basket inside before tipping in a Horton miss on the next possession. Williams halted Michigan's charge with a one-handed slam off a turnover, giving Illinois a 35-21 advantage with 4:07 left until the break.
The Wolverines closed out the half with an 8-2 run, starting with Robinson's first triple of the game from the wing. Sims continued to make his presence felt in the paint, tipping in another miss to bring U-M within nine points. After a defensive stop, Hunter capped off the first-half scoring with his third career triple to cut Illinois' lead to 37-29 after the first half of play.
Robinson led Michigan with seven points and three assists in the first frame, while Sims scored six points and pulled down seven boards. Brown paced the Fighting Illini with nine first-half points.
Michigan's defense held Illinois scoreless for over four minutes to start the second half. Meanwhile, U-M climbed back within three points, 37-34, after a Sims dunk and Horton's first triple of the game. Luther Head ended the Illini's shooting slump with a bucket at 15:39 to push the lead back up to five points. Horton nailed another from behind the arc to make the score 39-37 in favor of Illinois, but an 8-2 Illini run pushed the lead back up to 47-39 with 12:47 to play in the game.
Harris kept the Wolverines within reach with a short jumper in the lane, and Horton stayed hot with his third triple from the top of the arc to cut the lead to 47-44. Illinois answered the call by reeling off eight straight points to go up 55-44 with 9:26 to go. Robinson stepped up and hit two crucial jumpers to keep U-M within seven points, 55-48, but Brown nailed his second three-pointer to put Illinois back up by 10 points with just under eight minutes left.
Horton came out of a timeout and hit his fourth triple of the game, but six unanswered Illini points pushed the cushion back up to 64-51. Unfortunately, Brown continued to execute on offense for, scoring the next four points to keep the lead at 14 points. Michigan was unable to climb any closer, as Illinois won its 12th game in a row and advanced to the tournament final for the second consecutive year.
Michigan will await seeding for the 65-team field of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Pairings will be announced on Sunday (March 14) at 6 p.m. on CBS.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423