Illini Fall To Michigan in Big Ten Opener, 73-55
Four Wolverines reached double-figures as Michigan topped Illinois 73-55 in Big Ten Tournament action Thursday.
Aubrey Dawkins led the way for Michigan with 18 points, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 15, Zak Irvin 14 and Peoria native Max Bielfeldt added 10.
Michigan connected on 49.2% of its shots from the field, including 46.7% from three-point range.
Illinois managed only 37.3% shooting, and 7.7% (1 of 13) from the arc. Malcolm Hill led Illinois with 13 points. Rayvonte Rice and Leron Black added 10 apiece.
Rice led all players with 9 rebounds, and Illinois won the rebound battle 36 to 32. But the Illini manged only 5 assists in the game, versus 10 turnovers. Michigan's ATO ratio was 15:9.
Coach John Groce had few answers for Thursday's lopsided result.
"We haven't played like we did today all year," he said.. "We've got to learn from this, and how we don't do this again. I think that's the first step, and then the other stuff will take care of itself."
With the loss, Illinois drops to 19-13 on the year, and almost certainly will not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Illini may play in the NIT. Announcement of each tournament's field comes Sunday night. Renovations to the State Farm Center means any postseason action will necessarily be played away from home.
Michigan improved to 16-15, meaning they too may qualify for the NIT.
As for Max Bielfeldt, a former Illini target himself, he will graduate from Michigan this spring, with one year of college basketball eligibility remaining. He says he doesn't yet know whether he'll return to Michigan, or whether he'll transfer to a different program for graduate school.
Illinois' Bielfeldt Athletics Administration building is named for Max's family, whose major gift endowed its construction. His sister Elle will marry former Illini Meyers Leonard in August. Leonard is now in his third year with the NBA's Portland Trailblazers.