Disparity of talent apparent in Illinois’ loss to Michigan
March 5, 2014
The Illinois men’s basketball team entered Tuesday night’s matchup against No. 12 Michigan riding a three-game winning streak while allowing 50 points or less in its last four contests. It allowed 52 points in the first half alone.
Lack of defense and talent doomed Illinois in an 84-53 loss at the hands of Michigan on Senior Night. Illinois, in the process, learned what it takes to be a Big Ten champion.
It didn’t take Michigan long to blow the game wide open. The Wolverines already led 36-17 with 7:24 remaining in the first half. For one of the first times this season, Illinois’ defense, not its offense, failed it.
“I think it’s more execution of their behalf, thumbs up, execution on our behalf, thumbs down,” Illinois head coach John Groce said. “Those two in equation together is not a good recipe.”
Michigan scored 52 points while shooting 67.9 percent from the floor in the first half. Michigan couldn’t miss. Michigan head coach John Beilein said he hadn’t even seen that type of shooting from his team even in practice. The Wolverines had almost as many 3-pointers in the first half (11) as had field goals (13).
Illinois head coach John Groce compared Michigan’s offensive efficiency to a quote LeBron James said after his 61st-game, that it was like “shooting a golf ball into an ocean.” Michigan just overwhelmed Illinois with its talent, even with the loss of preseason All-American Mitch McGary.
The Wolverines’ roster is deep with impact players. Michigan is led by the sharpshooting of sophomore Nik Stauskas, who torched the Illini for 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting, but he has plenty of help around him.
Glenn Robinson III was too much to handle for Illinois on Tuesday. Robinson is an NBA athlete, something Illinois seriously lacks. The sophomore had 13 points, five rebounds and two steals as Illinois just couldn’t control him in the paint. Caris LeVert, who has been a pleasant surprise for Michigan, chipped in 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field.
In support of its top guns, the Wolverines have top-notch role players. The bench backcourt of Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin combined to shoot 5-for-7 from behind the arc. Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. has been an ideal floor general for the Wolverines despite being only a freshman. Walton rounded out a nice game with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists to zero turnovers. Illinois is a shell of a team compared to Michigan.
It’s not a coincidence that the only Illinois players to perform well Tuesday were Kendrick Nunn and Rayvonte Rice. They are, after all, the most talented Illini on the roster.
Nunn, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field, is starting to diversify his repertoire. He said Michigan was running him off the 3-point line, so he changed up his game. The only knock on Nunn is his tendency to disappear in games, but there’s no denying the talent is there.
Illinois’ loss against Michigan was the last game at State Farm Center as we know it. Renovations begin Thursday that will completely revamp the arena. What will remain are the banners that hang from the ceiling of State Farm Center listing Illinois’ Big Ten Championships. Illinois last pulled off the feat in 2005 when it reached the national championship game. Michigan, who clinched the regular season Big Ten title with the win, showed Illinois it has a long way to go before a new date will be etched on that banner.
Michael is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @The_MDubb.