Trey Burke set up teammates to score and made a drop of his very own in a significant stretch to help No. 7 Michigan Wolverines pull away to beat Illinois Fighting Illini 71-58.
The Wolverines (23-4, 10-4 Big 10) shook off a slow first half with a sluggish 2nd half to win consecutive games for the 1st time in nearly a month.
”I know we’re back on track,” Burke announced.
The Illinois Fighting Illini (20-9, 7-8) had won 5 straight – a streak that started February 7 by beating top-ranked Indiana – and seemed as if they might earn another impressive win when they controlled by 8 points twice in the 1st half.
In the 2nd half, though, Illinois coach John Groce declared Michigan was tougher and smarter.
”It’s intolerable,” Groce expounded. ”It’s unacceptable.”
Michigan opened the 2nd half with a 15-3 run, going ahead for good on Burke’s 3-pointer with 16:49 left to play and had a 9-point lead with his 2 free throws that put him over the 1,000-point mark for his career.
The Illinois Fighting Illini pulled inside 4 points with 7:55 left, but Burke dashed their comeback hopes.
Burke assisted Tim Hardaway Jr. On a fast-break layup, made a 3-pointer and pumped his fist and screamed with joy when his pass led on to Caris LeVert making a shot beyond the arc in an impressive, 63-second stretch.
Groce was impressed, though not surprised because he has been watching the local Columbus, Ohio, play since he was in middle school. NFL scores
”The thing that he always had is competitive toughness,” said Groce, who led the Bobcats past Michigan in last year’s NCAA tournament. ”He’s had that since Day 1.”
Burke joined Phil Hubbard, Mike McGee, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Louis Bullock and Manny Harris as the sophomores who have scored 1,000 points at Michigan. Cazzie Russell, Bill Buntin, Rudy Tomjanovich and Henry Wilmore reached the milepost in their 2nd seasons after they were ineligible to play as freshmen.
”It’s definitely honor to be in that company,” Burke expounded.
Wolverines Coach John Beilein said the achievement is more impressive because teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., is in the 1,000-points club, as well.
”It’s not like he’s a one-man show,” Beilein said.
Michigan played for the 1st time in a week and looked rusty and sloppy early, turning the ball over the missing open shots. Illinois led by as much as 8 points in the first half and didn’t trail till Hardaway Jr. Had a 3-point play with 3:30 to go.
Brandon Paul scored all 10 of points in the 1st half to help the Illini lead 31-28 at halftime. Paul did not attempt a shot in the 2nd half. D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams each scored 10 points for the Illini.
Hardaway Jr. Scored 13 and Glen Robinson III had 10 points. Freshman Nik Stauskas, who was averaging 12-plus points, missed all 5 of his shots and was held scoreless for the 2nd time this season. Caris LeVert, another freshman guard, took advantage of his opportunity to play more, scoring 8 points, one shy of his career high.
Tyler Griffey’s second 3-pointer pulled Illinois inside 4 points with 7:55 left in its final push to win the game.