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February 12, 2012Michigan fell behind 7-2 at home against Illinois before recovering behind freshman point guard Trey Burke in a 70-61 victory over the Illini that improved U-M to 9-4 in the Big Ten with Ohio State coming to town next Saturday. Burke scored with some nice finishes on the fast break and sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. hit his first triple on the way to his best half in weeks to help lead the Wolverines back from the early deficit.
Evan Smotrycz, though, was Sunday's first half catalyst. He attacked the basket and made four free throws, and also hit a three in a quick start when Jordan Morgan got into early trouble and was pulled after a minute and a half. Illinois seven-footer Meyers Leonard, who had some easy success over the top early against the smaller Michigan defenders, also picked up his second when Michigan junior Matt Vogrich took a charge against him with 12 or so to go in the first half, a blow to the Illini.
Michigan had some unforced turnovers on miscommunications and the Illini hit some tough shots to keep it close. Guard Brandon Paul's was the biggest, a long triple with Zack Novak's hand in his face, but five-point per game scorer Tyler Griffey kept the Illini in range. He scored 10 in the first half, including a three on Illinois' last possession to cut a nine-point lead to 37-31 at halftime.
The Wolverines lost Novak at 6:49 on a questionable foul call and U-M leading 25-21, but U-M was able to extend the lead thanks to Smotrycz. He found Vogrich back door for an easy two just after his steal set up Hardaway for a short jumper in transition. He then hit a three to make it 30-21.
Michigan shot well in the half, making eight straight shots in one stretch, but finished with a whimper. Hardaway hit another three, but Burke uncharacteristically missed a lay-up in transition followed by a missed eight-footer. U-M still finished 56.5 percent from the floor and 57.1 from long range, including 7-for-7 from the line. Smotrycz scored 12, Hardaway 10 and Burke 10 to lead the scoring in the first half.
The seniors got Michigan off to a great start in the second half. Novak knifed a ridiculous, long bounce back to Douglass for two in transition, and following another Griffey triple, hit a three of his own. Douglass then took it all the way to the rim to put Michigan up 44-34 early in the second.
That's when Illinois started getting a number of second chance opportunities on the glass. They didn't convert most, and Michigan was opportunistic on the offensive end, extending the lead to 53-39 on a Matt Vogrich triple and a Morgan finish from Burke in transition. Hardaway took it to the hole a few times but was raked (no calls on a few), and the whistles went Illinois' way. Michigan had seven fouls to Illinois' zero at the 7:55 mark of the second half.
A missed Morgan lay-up, followed by a Paul triple, made it a nine-point game with eight to go. The hot shooting, though, picked back up. Vogrich made his fifth triple in a row spanning two gamse and Morgan scored inside to make it 58-44. Illinois then rippled off the next seven points to make it a seven-point spread at 5:05, and a ball game.
Morgan was fouled on the pick and roll, but missed both free throws. Novak, though got the offensive rebound. U-M then took plenty of time off the clock when the Illini started to foul, and got a big play when Morgan denied an entry pass on one end, Hardaway finishing from Burke in transition to put the Wolverines back up nine. Hardaway drove and made two more free throws on the other end to create an 11-point cushion.
It still wasn't over. D.J. Richardson's triple from the corner cut it to 62-55 with 1:28 remaining, forcing U-M to close it out from the line. Novak went first, making both ends of a one and one, and Burke followed after a missed three to make it 66-55 at 1:05. Illinois got within seven down the stretch, but U-M made enough from the line to put it away, finishing 17-for-22 from the stripe.
Hardaway led U-M with 15 points, Burke added 14, Smotrycz 13 and Novak 12 and a team-leading nine rebounds. Leonard was held to five points for Illinois.