Illinois men’s basketball drops third straight in Big Ten play against Michigan

Malcolm+Hill+with+the+ball+against+Purdue+on+January+17th%2C+2017.+The+Illini+lost+98-61

Alex Kumar/The Purdue Exponent

Malcolm Hill with the ball against Purdue on January 17th, 2017. The Illini lost 98-61

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

The Illinois men’s basketball rematch Saturday against Michigan completely flipped the script from the Jan. 11 matchup.

The Wolverines trounced the Illini 66-57 after a second half meltdown from head coach John Groce’s squad. While the deficit was trimmed down in the final minutes, the nine-point loss didn’t tell the story of Illinois struggles.

Illinois went into halftime down 10, and guard Jalen Coleman-Lands opened the half with a layup to cut the lead to single digits, but from there Michigan couldn’t be stopped. The Wolverines went on an 11-0 run to stretch the lead to 19, and all but put away the Illini.

Illinois struggled from outside the paint all game, going 2-for-12 while also having difficulties controlling the ball against Michigan’s unusually stout defense, surrendering 17.

The lone bright spot for Illinois was the same lone bright spot there has been all season: Malcolm Hill. The senior led the team in points, rebounds and assists with 16-5-4 and showed out with some highlight plays in the first half. Hill combined a behind-the-back dribble with a reverse layup on back-to-back plays in the first half, giving the Illini some life.

The gap between Hill and the rest of the team stats-wise was staggering, with Te’Jon Lucas following up with 10 points and Aaron Jordan and Leron Black with four rebounds each.

Michigan set the tone on the defensive end of the floor, holding Illinois below 40 points with about five minutes left in the game. Illinois closed the lead late after Groce and Michigan head coach John Beilein emptied the bench.

D.J. Wilson paced the Michigan offense throughout the day, going 7-10 from the field for 19 points, adding seven rebounds and five assists to boot. Wilson helped to limit the Illini bigs, holding every Illini post player below eight points.

The loss dropped Illinois to 2-5 in Big Ten play, and 12-8 on the season. The Illini will take their three-game losing streak into Wednesday’s matchup against Iowa.

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