Illinois out for revenge against No. 25 Michigan

By Jeremy Werner

Just ten days have passed on the calendar since a 74-64 defeat at Michigan, though the pain from Illinois’ first conference loss is still quite sharp.

With the No. 25 Wolverines traveling to the Assembly Hall on Wednesday, the Illini have revenge on their minds.

“It’s definitely fresh in our minds,” senior guard Trent Meacham said. “They got a lot of guys that can shoot it. Not one of the guys hesitates to shoot the three. It makes it tough. They have different matchups and they cause mismatches. But we can do the same thing. Hopefully, we can make them pay for playing small.”

Michigan has plenty of weapons to power its high-powered offense, which averages 73.0 points per game. Michigan coach John Beilein’s active motion offense averages 26.3 three-point attempts a game.

“They spread you out. They shoot the threes,” Weber said. “We got to get to the shooters. You got to understand their system. You got to have great awareness and you still have to contest them.”

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Sophomore Manny Harris (18.6 points per game) and 6-foot-8 junior DeShawn Sims (16.4 ppg) are No. 2 and No. 3 among Big Ten scoring leaders this season. Transfer Laval Lucas-Perry has also sparked Michigan, averaging 12.0 points through seven games since becoming eligible.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber will use Chester Frazier on Harris, a preseason All-Big Ten selection. The Michigan sophomore scored 16 points on 15 shot attempts against the Illini on Jan. 4.

“I thought last time Chester did a pretty good job on (Harris),” Weber said. “He got some points but he had to do it by getting quite a few shots up. If we get the same effort on defense or maybe a little better, limit his easy baskets on the transition, that’ll be a key for us in the game.”

Weber said Illinois cannot focus solely on defending the three, saying Illinois lost to the Wolverines by giving up too many short jumpers and layups in their last meeting. Frazier said the Illini need to be more aggressive on defense to pester Michigan.

“We were too worried about getting back-doored last time,” Frazier said. “I think we just have to come out and play our system. We can’t let them change our defensive gameplan.”

The Wolverines pose a challenge on the defensive end as well with its featured 1-3-1 zone defense, though they used it sparingly against the Illini on Jan. 4. Weber said Illinois has enough offensive options – four players are averaging more than 11 points – to overcome the rarely seen defensive scheme.

Illinois (14-2) was left out of the Associated Press Top 25 again

this week, ranking 28th in the latest poll. Weber and his players were hoping for national recognition after a win at Purdue on Jan. 30, but a loss to Michigan quieted those rumblings.

The scenario for the Illini is similar to ten days ago. A win over

No. 25 Michigan on Wednesday could give them momentum heading into Saturday’s matchup against Michigan State at East Lansing and possibly gain attention from the pollsters.

“I think we have a stretch here where we’re going to really find out what we’re about and if we can compete for the Big Ten championship or be up in the upper echelon of teams,” Weber said.