For a fleeting moment, it looked as though Michigan had rounded the corner. Trailing Illinois 48-47, the Wolverines had the ball, and they had a surging crowd behind them despite an abundance of empty seats. It was their moment to take control, and they needed to seize it.
So, they got the ball to their best player, Dug McDaniel, and let the point guard run the offense. The possession ended with him missing a jumper off a decent shot, and the Illini grabbed the ball. But thanks to a miscommunication and a turnover, McDaniel stole the ball right in the paint. And even better, he had teammate Jaelin Llewellyn criminally open in the corner.
But there would be no pass, no easy feed for an open three that kept the momentum on Michigan’s side. No, instead McDaniel looked him off and dribbled around the defense by his lonesome before putting up a tough angled shot that needed a hope and a prayer to fall.
Those never came, and as Illinois scooped up the corralled the ensuing rebound, the Wolverines missed their last opportunity to make some noise. The Illini put up a 17-2 run that suffocated Crisler Center. Meanwhile, the Wolverines walked off the court reeling for what has long been one too many times.
It’s a complex problem, but one that’s easy to see. It’s a trust issue, and it’s one that spans many fronts.