Once again, the Michigan basketball team put itself in position for a key win, but once again, the Wolverines couldn’t close out the game. We look Michigan’s best moments from Thursday night’s loss to Illinois and examine what went wrong late.
1) Dawkins dazzles with highlight-reel dunk
Thursday’s result may not have been ideal, but at least the game gave us this posterizing dunk from Aubrey Dawkins.
The freshman forward noticed Jaylon Tate overcommitting and positioned slightly too high, so he made a backcut down the baseline. Meanwhile, Andrew Dakich read the move perfectly and delivered an on-target bounce pass that allowed Dawkins to catch and soar.
The result was an emphatic one-handed slam over Nnanna Egwu, a finish which earned No. 2 honors on SportsCenter’s top plays of the day.
2) Bielfeldt paces Michigan in the first half
Max Bielfeldt led the Wolverines with 12 points against Illinois, and he did most of the damage with nine points in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
John Beilein has preached the importance of the pump fake all winter, and the center used it to his advantage for his first bucket of the night. The move got Maverick Morgan off-balance at the top of the key and allowed for a finish off the dribble in the paint.
On the next possession, Bielfeldt slipped a screen at the top of the key. Two defenders stayed with Spike Albrecht outside, leaving Bielfeldt with a mismatch inside. The guard whipped a pass to the senior for the short jumper.
Later, Bielfeldt was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce off the high glass when Zak Irvin lost control of the ball on a drive; the center still finished well with a left-handed hook shot. He polished off the impressive first half from the free throw line after a good read to attack the basket on a broken play.
3) Wolverines stretch lead after halftime
Michigan was up just two at halftime, but that lead grew quickly after the break.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman began the scoring for his team with an ankle-breaking stepback jumper, and then Dawkins hit a jumper of his own from the elbow after a handoff and screen from Bielfeldt.
Four minutes into the second half, Albrecht drove on Jaylon Tate and connected on a difficult layup, and Bielfeldt followed with a baseline drive and spin for a layup.
The fast start put the Wolverines up eight at the under-16 timeout, and Michigan generally remained in control of the game until the final minutes of regulation.
4) Illini tie game with 90 seconds left
Illinois pulled within three with 2:10 remaining, and Michigan came up empty on its next possession.
Michigan ran a well-executed pick-and-roll play which left Spike Albrecht wide open for a three-point look. Albrecht made the correct read on the ball screen, but his shot went in and out. That was probably the shot Michigan needed to pull away once and for all, but instead the Illini had a chance to tie.
On the other end of the floor, John Beilein went with the 1-3-1 zone after an Illinois timeout.
Michigan actually has pretty good defensive shape throughout the possession until a cross-court pass from Malcolm Hill to Ahmad Starks catches the Wolverines out of position. Irvin over commits in his reaction, leaving his feet and flying out of bounds which allows Starks to make the easy pass to Kendrick Nunn in the corner. Albrecht couldn’t rotate over soon enough to contest the game-tying three and Michigan’s lead was gone.
5) Michigan can’t inbound at end of regulation
According to John Beilein, someone blew a route on this play, but the results were disastrous. Albrecht, whose inbounds pass was being guarded by Egwu, had to launch a long, one-handed lob to Dawkins in the paint, and the feed was broken up.
Michigan didn’t have a timeout, and it was approaching a five-second violation, but it was disappointing to see the Wolverines fail to get a shot off with a chance to win the game. The simplest option seems like it would have been a quick pass to Max Bielfeldt, who could give the ball back to Albrecht to attack.
Albrecht clearly had difficulties trying to see around Egwu, but Beilein said he didn’t trust any of his bigs to make an inbounds pass without throwing it away. He also noted that it was Albrecht who threw the game-tying assist to Glenn Robinson III last year at Purdue.
Illinois missed at the buzzer, and the game headed to overtime.
Overtime: Turnovers lead to easy points for Illinois
The extra period actually began with a solid defensive play when Abdur-Rahkman’s quick hands stripped the ball from Nunn and nearly forced a turnover. But the freshman was called for a foul during the ensuing scramble, and Nunn hit both free throws to give Illinois its first lead since midway through the first half.
Then the Wolverines committed a pair of turnovers and the Illini began to pull away. When Albrecht’s contested inside jumper missed, Bielfeldt grabbed the offensive rebound as he was falling out of bounds. The center tried a long pass toward halfcourt that was intercepted. Egwu hit a turnaround jumper over Bielfeldt on the ensuing possession.
Michigan couldn’t afford an empty possession down four, but Irvin’s attempted drive and kickout to the corner was read by Starks, who grabbed the easy steal. Starks dished to Nunn on a fast break, and, though Dawkins got back in time to foul, the Illinois guard made both free throws.
“As hard as we work … it’s tough to sustain that energy without having the depth you probably need in a game with this type of impact,” Beilein said.