Dec. 30, 2015
» Caris LeVert finished with a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists. He has scored in double figures in 13 of 14 games this season.
» Donnal (26 points, 9 rebounds) and Derrick Walton Jr. (9 points, 9 rebounds) narrowly missed double-doubles.
» With its 78-68 win, Michigan has now won 10 of the last 11 contests against the Fighting Illini.
Site: Champaign, Ill. (State Farm Center)
Score: Michigan 78, Illinois 68
Records: U-M (11-3, 1-0 Big Ten), Illinois (8-6, 0-1 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, Jan. 2 -- vs Penn State (Crisler Center), Noon (TV: BTN)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Junior forward Mark Donnal scored a career-best 26 points and senior guard Caris LeVert added 22 points and 10 assists as the Univeristy of Michigan men's basketball team took down Illinois, 78-68, in the season's Big Ten opener Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 30) at State Farm Center.
Donnal's career night consisted of highs in points (26), rebounds (9), blocks (3) and minutes (28). In addition, he tied his career high in steals (2) and season high in three-pointers (1). LeVert finished with his second career double-double, and junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. nearly had a double-double of his own with nine points and nine rebounds.
Illinois led 37-34 at halftime, but keeping with the momentum that was sparked in the final few minutes of the first half, the Wolverines exploded in the early minutes of the second half, led by Donnal, who scored seven points in just over three minutes and on the way to 18 points in the second half overall. The 9-2 run by Michigan forced the Illini to call a timeout at 16:53 of the second half. A behind-the-arc shot from the Illini brought them within one of the Wolverines at the first media timeout of the half.
Donnal came out aggressively against the Illinois defense. He took a strong offensive rebound and put it right back up to extend Michigan's lead 45-42. The Illini responded to come within one again at 45-44, but that was as close as they would get, as four Wolverines each made a three-pointer during a key 16-4 run that put U-M up 61-48 with 9:56 left.
Though the Wolverines dominated the second half, they started the sluggishly. It took the Wolverines over three minutes and two missed shots before a bucket from LeVert put Michigan on the board. At the first media timeout Illinois led, 5-2. LeVert scored the first nine points of the game for Michigan to tie with the Fighting Illini for the first time at 12:49. Illinois was quick to respond with two points to take the lead back. It was Walton with a corner three that brought the Wolverines the lead for the first time, 12-11, with 12:22 left to play in the first half. A tip-in from Donnal in the paint extended Michigan's lead to 14-11 at the second media timeout.
The game was tied again at 14 thanks to a high three-pointer from Illinois freshman guard Jalen Coleman-Lands. Two minutes later, Illinois took the lead again thanks to a pair of free throws. A shot from under the basket by Donnal tied things up again at 16, the fourth tie of the night. Donnal scored again from under the basket as soon as play resumed after the third media timeout, but Illinois built a 29-22 lead with under five minutes left in the half.
The Wolverines came to life, going on a 9-0 run to take the lead, 31-29, forcing Illinois to call a timeout at 2:35. The score was tied at 31 before an open triple from Coleman-Lands gave Illinois the lead. The triple was matched by one from junior guard Zak Irvin, tying the score again. With 26 seconds left, a three from Coleman-Lands gave Illinois the lead going into halftime.
Though they had a season-high 15 turnovers, the Wolverines managed more steals (7-6) and rebounds (38-27) than their Big Ten opponents.
The Wolverines return home to take on the Penn State Nittony Lions on Saturday (Jan. 2) for the first home contest of the Big Ten season. Tipoff is set for noon inside Crisler Center, and BTN will televise the game.
Communications Contact: Tom Wywrot