Michigan tops Illinois

By Lucas Deal

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It was just too much Daniel Horton.

The Illini guarded Dion Harris, they kept their eye on Courtney Sims, they never let Jerret Smith get in rhythm. Heck, Graham Brown didn’t even score. And yet, in the end, it was just too much Daniel Horton.

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Turns out that was all the Wolverines needed.

Horton scored a career-high 39 points and was 5-for-7 from the three-point line as Michigan used a barrage of threes early in the second half to pull ahead and held on for a 72-64 win over the No. 8 Illini at Crisler Arena on Tuesday.

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    “I didn’t know he had that many points,” said Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker. “That was a brilliant game by him.”

    Illinois jumped out to an early lead and led most of the first half, but unlike in the teams’ first meeting, Horton was hot from the start.

    He scored Michigan’s (18-7, 8-6) first nine points and already had 14 points when the two teams hit the locker room at the half.

    Illinois had a 34-30 lead, but Weber said he knew Horton would continue to score. After the game, he questioned how it happened.

    “When a guy is getting 39, he’s kicking our butt,” he said. “I feel like, ‘Who’s our defensive coordinator?’ But I guess that’s me, so I’m to blame.”

    James Augustine led the Illini with 23 points and a game-high 14 rebounds and Dee Brown added 20. At 22-5, 8-5 in the conference, the Illini will need substantial help to win another Big Ten crown.

    “I’m just trying to go game by game,” Weber said. “Last year, I could talk about the national championship game. With this group, we’re just talking about surviving at home against Iowa.”

    Illinois led 40-33 early in the second half when consecutive threes by Harris, Horton and Ron Coleman put the Wolverines on top. Dee Brown responded with a three of his own to put the Illini back up by one, but Horton, not to be outdone, answered to see-saw the Wolverines back ahead.

    “We were working on moving the ball,” Amaker said. “If we keep the ball moving, it will move quicker than the players guarding it. Our players did that in very fine fashion then, at a time when we really needed it.”

    But the game stayed close until the end, with Illinois trailing only 66-64 after two Augustine free throws with 45 seconds remaining.

    After the free throws, Michigan inbounded the ball to Horton, who was trapped by Brian Randle and Chester Frazier. The Illini appeared to force a held ball, but instead referee Ed Hightower called a foul on Randle, his fifth.

    The Illini couldn’t bounce back.

    “They rose up and we didn’t,” Weber said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do. They were into it, and we couldn’t deal with that.”