Game 3 recap: Michigan takes care of Illinois, 75-55

Game 3 recap: Michigan takes care of Illinois, 75-55

WASHINGTON — Arriving the morning of today’s game and wearing practice togs, No. 8 Michigan looked to be in championship form in taking down No. 9 Illinois, 75-55, in its opening Big Ten tourney game Thursday afternoon.

You couldn’t have scripted this scenario, as the plane the Wolverines were flying to Washington, D.C., ran off the runway in an aborted takeoff on Wednesday night. No one was hurt, but nerves were shaken and the trip delayed. But the Wolverines looked fresh in dismantling Illinois in their funky practice togs after their game unis remain in the damaged plane.

The Wolverines will take on No. 1 Purdue on Friday. Michigan whipped the Boilermakers in their lone meeting this year, winning 82-70 in Ann Arbor. What’s next for Illinois? This loss in all likelihood has killed their faint NCAA tourney hopes. This for a program that was hot down the stretch, winning four in a row before losing its final two games.

Top star: Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan. The senior showed why he may be the top point guard in the Big Ten, leading Michigan with 19 points. He hit 7-of-14 shots with five assists and four rebounds. Few point men in America do more.

Top stat line: Tracy Abrams, Illinois. The sixth-year senior did his part, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 (69 percent) from the field, while also adding five rebounds and two assists.

Top stat: 53, Michigan’s field-goal percentage, as the Wolverines hit 30-of-56 shots.

Top dunk: Zak Irvin swiped the ball from an Illini player and sprinted down court. When he hit the arc, Irvin spotted a streaking D.J. Wilson, whom he hit with a beautiful alley-oop touch pass which Wilson slammed home. That gave Michigan a 22-9 edge with 11:19 to go in the first half. This dunk deserves mention, too.

Top picture: It’s been an emotional 24 hours or so for John Beilein and the Wolverines, so you know it must have felt great for Beilein to get this postgame hug from his son Andrew.

It was over when: Honestly, this game never was in much doubt, as the Wolverines jumped to 20-9 edge and led by as many as 20 points in the first half and took a 40-29 edge into the lockerroom. Michigan kept the pressure on in the second half in a game it never trailed and controlled throughout.

Did you see that? Always a fan of locker room celebrations, this Michigan one is extra special considering what the team had to overcome to make it reality.

Notable:

  • Michigan has won 11 straight opening tournament games. In fact, John Beilein has never lost an opening contest, winning 10 straight.
  • Michigan won the inaugural Big Ten tourney in 1998.
  • Michigan is 6-4 in its last 10 games vs. Purdue. John Beilein is 8-9 vs. the Boilermakers.
  • Illinois had won its opening Big Ten tourney game three times in the first four years under Coach John Groce. But the Illini were one and done this season.
Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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