Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 12, 2015

CHICAGO — John Beilein still hasn't lost an opening game in a Big Ten tournament. Beilein and No. 9 Michigan rolled past No. 8 Illinois, 73-55, on Thursday at the United Center.

The Wolverines advance to play No. 1 Wisconsin, which it lost to in overtime in the lone meeting this season, at noon ET Friday.

Get senior writer Tom Dienhart's rapid reaction to Michigan's win below.

Star player: Michigan?s Aubrey Dawkins continued his recent tear. Entering the game fresh off 21- and 31-point efforts, both career highs, the freshman hit 8-of-12 shots (2-of-5 from 3-point range) for a game-high 18 points. He added three rebounds and two steals.

Top stat: Michigan was sizzling from 3-point range, hitting 7-of-15 shots (46 percent). Spike Albrecht, Zak Irvin and Aubrey Dawkins each drained two.

Best stat line: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit 6-of-12 shots en route to a 15-point effort. The freshman also had eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Best all-around effort on the court.

Top dunk: Late in the first half, Zak Irvin lobbed a pass to Aubrey Dawkins, who threw down a rim-rattling jam.

Top play: It has to be Spike Albrecht's ridiculous no-look, behind-the-head pass to Aubrey Dawkins, who flushed it home.

It was over when: The game was tied, 19-19, with 7:19 left in the first half. That?s when Michigan went on a 21-4 run to close the half and take a 40-23 lead. The Wolverines shot 47 percent, led by Dawkins 12. Illinois shot 31. Michigan cruised from there, taking an easy 73-55 win vs. a Fighting Illini squad that was fighting for an NCAA bid. Now, Illinois looks destined for the NIT.

Notable: Illinois finishes by going 2-5 down the stretch. ? Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins (both freshmen): 33… Illinois starters: 36. ? Michigan will play No. 1 Wisconsin on Friday. The Badgers won the lone meeting, taking an overtime decision in Ann Arbor.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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