No. 21 Illinois tops Michigan on the road, 64-62

Photo+Courtesy+of+Illini+Athletics%0AGuard+Ayo+Dosunmu+drives+at+the+basket+during+Illinois%E2%80%99+64-62+victory+Saturday.+Dosunmu+scored+a+career-high+27+points+in+the+win.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics Guard Ayo Dosunmu drives at the basket during Illinois’ 64-62 victory Saturday. Dosunmu scored a career-high 27 points in the win.

By Miles Powers-Huang, Staff Writer

With the shot clock ticking down and the game tied at 62, sophomore Ayo Dosunmu made his move to the basket.

As he crossed over back and forth off the dribble, he was eventually cut off, trying to lean in and settled for a contested jumper from the foul line. Though it wasn’t an ideal look, Dosunmu drained the shot over Michigan’s Zavier Simpson, and No. 21 Illinois escaped Ann Arbor with a 64-62 victory, moving to first place in the Big Ten.

This year’s Big Ten season has been characterized by road woes, as home teams have dominated conference matchups thus far. Early on, the Illini looked in position to easily break that trend, as they lead for the final 13 minutes of the first half and by as many as eight points at different stretches.

Michigan refused to go away, however, as they retook the lead three minutes into the second half.

The turning point in the game occurred at the 15-minute mark. The Wolverines pushed the ball ahead and Isaiah Livers looked to have a layup. The junior decided to try and make an emphatic statement by dunking the ball but was fouled by Da’Monte Williams, taking a hard fall in the process. Though he would stay in to make the free throws, he was immediately subbed and did not score again in the game.

Livers went out with an injury in Michigan’s win over Presbyterian on Dec. 21 and the Wolverines were 2-4 without him, proving the pain of his absence.

From then on, it turned into a Dosunmu-versus-Michigan game, and the sophomore delivered time and time again, exploiting Michigan’s smaller backcourt players when they defended him while also blowing by their slower forwards when they switched on to him. Dosunmu finished with 27 points and seven rebounds but did not get much help outside of Andres Feliz’s 15 points off the bench.

Though Michigan was not spectacular on Saturday, there were multiple aspects of the game that gave the Wolverines a clear opportunity to take the game and end their 3-game losing streak.

Junior Trent Frazier battled foul trouble and sat most of the second half, freshman Kofi Cockburn fouled out with single figures, sophomore Giorgi Bezhanishvili was non-existent offensively and sophomore Alan Griffin missed the contest serving the first of his two-game suspension for his incident with Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic on Tuesday.

The Wolverines appeared on the verge of sealing the game after freshman Franz Wagner beat Cockburn for a rebound and drew the foul that disqualified the Illini big man with Michigan ahead by two. A knock-down foul shooter, it felt inevitable that Wagner would drain at least one and force Illinois to take a tough three at the bare minimum. Still, he inexplicably missed both, leaving the door open for Illinois to come back, and the Illini did just that via a pair of Frazier free throws and Dosunmu’s dagger.

Every championship team has a memorable game, typically on the road against a lesser team, where the other team plays well and has every opportunity to take the victory but can’t close it out. For Illinois, Saturday’s matchup may have been just that. Although there is lots of basketball left to be played, the Illini have to feel great riding a six-game win streak and sitting in first place with the majority of their tough opponents having to come to Champaign to close out the season.

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