No. 7 Michigan takes over, makes Illini look bad after halftime
(MCT) — ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At halftime, leading No. 7 Michigan by three points on the road, Illinois coach John Groce reminded players of two second-half scenarios and gave them an option.
Against Indiana, the Illini played with as much gusto in the second half as the first and won. After a stellar first-half effort at Michigan State, they wilted and lost.
At the Crisler Center on Sunday afternoon, the Illini chose wrong.
Disconnected from their first-half execution and effort, they fell apart after halftime and lost 71-58 to Michigan, ending a five-game winning streak.
“I’m going to keep it really simple,” Groce said afterward. “They were smarter and tougher than us in the second half.”
Michigan outscored Illinois 43-27 in the second half and shot 54.2 percent, using a 15-3 start to establish a tone. Illinois allowed the Wolverines — one of the nation’s best in transition — to convert 13 Illini turnovers into 27 points.
“We had some errors that we had not had in this stretch,” Groce said. “Some scouting errors, some rotational errors, some mistakes. They’re already really, really good. That adds to them being even better than they are.”
It’s hard to think of ways to improve upon the play of Michigan’s Trey Burke.
The point guard, who is a national player of the year contender, scored 19 of his 26 points after halftime. He added eight assists and only one turnover.
For Illinois to suffer a mental lapse at this point of the season was disturbing to Groce.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “It’s intolerable.”
There were plenty of areas over which to grumble.
No Illinois player scored more than 10 points. Leading scorer Brandon Paul did not attempt a shot in the second half.
The Illini had more turnovers (13) than assists (seven).
“They did a good job of trapping our guards on ball screens,” said D.J. Richardson, who scored 10 points along with Paul and Tracy Abrams. “We made some boneheaded turnovers.”
After outrebounding Michigan 18-12 in the first half, Illinois was beaten on the boards 17-10 and didn’t grab an offensive board.
“Twenty minutes, you’d think we’d be able to fall into one,” Groce said.
Illinois cut Michigan’s nine-point lead to 51-47 after five straight points by Tyler Griffey. A behind-the-back assist from Jordan Morgan to Glenn Robinson III for a dunk and less than 21/2 minutes later, the Wolverines led by 13 and eventually extended their lead to 17.
Illinois has six days to recover before hosting Nebraska in the last Assembly Hall game of the season. That will provide time for guard Joseph Bertrand to heal after falling hard on his hip and for the Illini to recuperate from a brain freeze.
“We have time to recover, time to get better,” Richardson said. “That’s the main thing, to get better.”