Michigan lost its center, Jordan Morgan, but the Wolverines got some nice contributions from lesser-used players and earned a win in Champaign, beating Illinois 74-60.
Morgan went down early, tweaking his ankle early. The junior center is a key part of the pick-and-roll with Trey Burke and a presence on the boards, but he was replaced by Mitch McGary, a 6-foot-10 freshman who has had similar stats per possession in about 16 minutes a game. Horford, who had suffered a knee injury in December, played his most significant minutes in some time, establishing himself by scoring on his first trip down the floor. In the second half, Michigan turned to freshman Max Bielfeldt, a 6-foot-7 forward with only 59 career minutes. His free throws weren't pretty to watch, but he snagged three offensive boards and had a putback. The trio combined for 17 points on just 11 shots.
The Wolverines still have just one loss on the season, against Ohio State and are likely to be the No. 1 team in the country next week after Duke, Louisville, and Syracuse all stumbled. The Illini are just 2-5 in the Big Ten after winning their first 12 games of the year.
Illinois shot themselves out of the game, as they tend to do: Brandon Paul hit three threes in the first half, but finished just 3-of-9 on the game from beyond the arc. D.J. Richardson was no better, going 2-of-9 from downtown and scoring just 12 points on 15 shots. The Illini got 14 offensive boards against a team that typically rebounds well, but couldn't follow up with many second-chance points. Trey Burke didn't have a great game, finishing with 19 points on as many shots, but he led all scorers.
Michigan started hot: Nik Stauskas, typically known as just a shooter, had nine early points including an uncontested dunk on a slick pass from Burke. Other than the trio of threes from Brandon Paul, Illinois was way off — shooting just 11-for-31 from the field in the first half. A stepback jumper from Burke with the clock winding down would allow Michigan to take a 35-27 lead into the half.
The Illini showed some fight in the second, quickly cutting Michigan's lead to four, but the Wolverines would reel off nine straight to go up double digits. Michigan would switch into a 1-3-1 zone that caused Illinois some trouble with about eight minutes left, and Horford finished a few passes from Burke as the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run that would push their lead to 18. From then on, Michigan's lead was pretty much safe.