Survive and advance.
Michigan got the start it was looking for early in a 64-63 win over Illinois - not as dominant as the Wolverines were in a blowout win against the Illini in early March, but good enough to gain some separation. Nik Stauskas scored five of U-M's first nine points and Glenn Robinson III added four for a 9-5 lead at the first TV timeout. Robinson was aggressive with the ball, scoring the first two points on a wing jumper and adding a strong drive and finish from the top.
Fifth-year senior big man Jordan Morgan added a spark on the defensive end, blocking a shot and saving it before it went out of bounds and collecting a steal in the first five minutes.
Freshman Zak Irvin, brought in to provide some offense, didn't disappoint, hitting a triple, but the Wolverines only led 12-9 at the 13:25 mark. Illinois big man Nnanna Egwu scored four on offensive eputbacks to keep the Illini close, and it was only 12-11 when Joseph Bertrand drove and scored at 12:45.
The Wolverines made only five of their first 13 shots and two of eight triples. They still led 14-12 at 11:06 after two Stauskas free throws, but Bertrand busted the 1-3-1 with penetration and a short jump shot to tie it again.
Bertrand continued to hurt the Wolverines. He scored off the dribble following a jumper from sophomore Spike Albrecht. That tied it at 16 before Robinson countered with a triple. It remained close though, at the third timeout - 19-18 after a Jaylon Tate drive and score for the Illini. Illinois made eight of its first 17 shots, and all but two were outside the paint.
Stauskas continued to be aggressive for U-M. His drive and finish pushed the lead back to three before the Illini tied it with a triple against the 1-3-1. Sophomore Caris LeVert answered with one of his own from the corner, and when Robinson III was fouled following a steal by Horford, he put U-M up 26-21 with two free throws at 6:01.
Robinson's rebound and coast-to-coast finish made it 30-23 at 4:46 and forced an Illinois timeout. The Illini, though, continued to attack the basket. Rayvonte Rice drove and finished on LeVert, and an offensive rebound and-one cut it to 30-28 at 3:46.
Illinois came back in a 2-3 zone, and Robinson got the look he wanted - he just couldn't finish a 10-foot jumper. Illinois capped a 7-0 run with a Kendrick Nunn jumper, and the two teams exchanged triples to make it 33-all at 2:00. Stauskas hit his second for he Wolveirnes.
LeVert made it 36-33 at 1:38 with U-M's second straight three-pointer. A Walton steal and LeVert jam pushed the advantage to 38-33, and the half ended that way after a Stauskas turnover and missed jumper on the other end.
Stauskas led U-M with 12, Robinson added 11 and LeVert eight in the first half. Illinois shot 50 percent from the floor.
LeVert gave Michigan its biggest lead with a triple to open the second half scoring, making it 41-33. Two Stauskas free throws expanded the lead to 10 at 18:38, and U-M threatened to blow it open.
Malcolm Hill's triple, though, cut the lead bak to seven bfore Morgan scored inside and Stauskas hit a jumper to push it back to 11 at 16:40, forcing an Illini timeout. LeVert's steal and finish pushed the lead to 13.
The Illini scored the next four and were in position to cut it to seven before blowing an uncontested lay-up. It stood at 10 at 13:30 when Robinson made one of two free throws.
Michigan continued to remain patient on offense, and it paid off. Albrecht hit a triple with the shot clock winding down, and two Stauskas free throws on a drive at 11:26 kept the Wolverines comfortably ahead.
The Illini still wouldn't go away. Bertrand completed a three-point play to cut it to eight, and Tracy Abrams scorched Zak Irvin off the dribble and was fouled, making two free throws to cut it back to six. Illinois was in the bonus at 9:38 and took advantage. Abrams made two more out of the one-and-one, and just like that it was 55-51 at 9:38.
Abrams cut it to one, 55-54, with a triple at 7:55. Robinson, though, answered with yet another huge three from the right corner at 7:25. Three Illinois free throws cut it to one, 58-57, at 6:15.
The Wolverines continued to struggle on offense against Illinois' 2-3 zone, turning it over and settling for jump shots. Robinson's miss from the top gave Illinois the ball and a chance for the lead, but the Illni couldn't convert. LeVert, though, missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Illinois took the lead on a drive and finish by Rice at 4:47. When Stauskas missed a three, Illinois had the ball and all the momentum heading to the last TV timeout.
They took advantage, going up by three on yet another drive and finish. Walton, though, tied it at 61 after a Stauskas miss and LeVert offensive rebound.
U-M went back to the 1-3-1 and got a stop, but not the rebound. The Wolverines then gave up a matador lay-up to go back down two and missed three triples at the other end and gave the ball back down two at 1:28.
Stauskas had a chance to tie, but he made only one of two free throws with 55 second remaining. Illinois didn't get a shot on its next possession, setting U-M up for one last shot with 19.1 seconds remaining. A pick and roll finish by Morgan from Stauskas gave the Wolverines the lead - Illinois' last shot, a point blank look from 10 feet by Abrams, was short, and Michigan escaped with a 64-63 win.
Stauskas led Michigan with 19, Robinson had 15 and LeVert 13 for the Wolverines, who will face the winner of Ohio State and Nebraska Saturday.