Illinois came out gunning in grabbing a 9-3 lead on three triples, but Michigan rallied from eight down (21-13) to tighten it up in an eventual 71-58 U-M win. The Wolverines didn't play well early, fumbling balls, losing on loose balls and getting owned on the glass in the first half, one that ended at 31-28 Illinois when Brandon Paul banked a triple from the top with two seconds remaining.
The Illini did a good job defending the three-point line, limiting the Wolverines to seven attempts and two makes and not giving many clean looks. They scored 13 second chance points on eight offensive rebounds, the key to maintaining their lead.
On the other end, U-M seemed to struggle to get in a rhythm offensively and scored only four points in transition.
Sophomore point guard Trey Burke was responsible for much of U-M's first half offensive success, but the Illini did a solid job checking him from long range. He didn't shoot a three in the half (freshman sniper Nik Stauskas didn't get his first attempt until the three-minute mark, either), doing most of his damage in the paint. He scored seven and added four assists against no turnovers.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored eight but turned it over three times for Michigan, freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary added four apiece and frosh Spike Albrecht a triple and a steal in seven solid minutes.
Illinois shot 41.4 percent to the Wolverines' 48 in the first half, but the Illini's advantage on the offensive glass kept them ahead. U-M, meanwhile, seemed to lack the offensive confidence with which they played in the first half of the Big Ten slate.
Michigan opened the scoring on a pick and roll to McGary, who finished with a nice reverse to cut Illinois' lead to one. Burke finished from Hradaway in transition to tie it at 32 after an Illinois free throw, essentially starting it from scratch at the 18-minute mark.
Burke hit a long triple on a pass from LeVert to give the Wolverines their first lead of the second half at 16:45. Redshirt junior Jordan Morgan took a charge at one end and set up Robinson for a slam with a no-look pass from the post to give U-M a 39-34 lead - a Robinson steal and slam opened it to seven points at 15:20, and Michigan continued to amp up the intensity on defense.
Illinois, meanwhile, went cold from three-point range, allowing U-M to take its biggest lead, 43-34, at 15:00 on two Burke free throws, the 1,000th and 1001st points of his Michigan career.
Freshman Caris LeVert hit a triple to help the Wolverines maintain their lead. Illinois' Tyler Griffey cut it to five, though, at 11:25 when he hit an uncontested triple, and he backed Hardaway down for another short jump shot to cut it to five after a Horford dunk. But what kept Illinois in the game in the first half was absent in the second. The Illini hadn't notched a second half offensive rebound as of the 8:47 mark, and Burke's steal and finish kept U-M ahead at 51-44.
McGary, though, missed two free throws, and U-M left Griffey alone again for a triple that cut it to four at 7:29.
A Burke loose ball drive and pass to Hardaway in transition for a finish, followed by Burke and LeVert triples, made it 59-47 at 5:41, just like that. It expanded to 66-49 at 3:35 on another Burke jumper, a LeVert steal and two free throws when he was fouled.
The Wolverines closed it out from the line.
LeVert's energy and play on both ends was one of the big keys to Michigan's second half success - he notched eight points, two rebounds and a steal in 16 minutes. Burke led all scorers with 26 points and recorded eight assists to only one turnover. Hardaway had 13 and seven rebounds, Robinson 10 and three boards.
Michigan improved to 23-4, 10-4 in Big Ten play.