What's buzzing:

Michigan claims Big Ten title

The SportsXchange

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The last time Michigan won an outright Big Ten regular-season championship was in 1985-86.

How long ago was that? Bill Frieder coached, while Antoine Joubert and Roy Tarpley were the star players. And the 3-point line didn't even come into college basketball until the following season.

Tuesday night, the Wolverines captured the Big Ten's outright title in large part because of a rule that didn't exist 28 seasons ago.

Tying a season high by drilling 16-of-23 3-pointers, Michigan never trailed and routed Illinois 84-53 at sold-out State Farm Center.

"These guys are special," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "I think we shot the ball, passed the ball and played defense as well as we have all year tonight. I'm privileged to be the coach of this team."

Guard Nik Stauskas drilled seven 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points for the Wolverines (22-7, 14-3), who converted 29 of 51 shots (56.9 percent) and led by as many as 33 points in the second half.

After the game, senior center Jordan Morgan lugged the Big Ten regular season championship trophy into the media room, a smile creasing his face. But Morgan, who was part of last season's team that lost to Louisville in the national championship game, said this was just one step on what Michigan hopes will be a long spring journey.

"It's nice to achieve this goal, but we've got bigger goals in mind," he said.

On this night, the Wolverines looked like a team that could play for the national title. All eight players who saw action in the first half drew an assist as they shot 19 of 28 (67.9 percent), including an otherworldly 11 of 14 from the 3-point arc.

Michigan averaged 1.73 points on 30 first-half possessions, taking a 52-30 lead into the locker room when Stauskas drained a 25-footer from the right wing as time expired.

In their previous four games, the Fighting Illini (17-13, 6-11) held their opponents under 50 points. But the Wolverines tallied 74 points on their field goals for an effective percentage of 72.5.

"I saw LeBron James on TV after he scored 61 points (Monday night) and he said the ball felt like a golf ball and the basket looked like the ocean," said Illinois coach John Groce, "and that's what Michigan looked like tonight.

"We came in here playing the best we have all year. Tonight, we didn't play as well. And we played a very good to great team that played great basketball."

Stauskas made 8 of 11 field goals, routinely hitting 3s from NBA distance as the Wolverines' outstanding ball movement frequently netted him clean looks. Even though it cooled down a bit in the second half, Michigan still netted 15 assists in the game.

"I just think we came in here with the mindset of getting this done tonight," Stauskas said. "This was as dominant a game as we've played all year."

Guard Caris LeVert added 15 points for the Wolverines and forward Glenn Robinson III netted 13. Center Jon Horford came off the bench to grab a game-high 10 rebounds in 28 minutes after Morgan left in the first half with a back injury.

Guards Rayvonte Rice and Kendrick Nunn paced the Illini with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Illinois entered with a three-game winning streak, including a 53-46 upset at No. 22 Michigan State Saturday, and harbored long-shot hopes of an at-large NCAA tourney bid.

Michigan wasted little time shooting those down.

"I just think you have to give them a lot of credit for how they played," Groce said.

NOTES: Illinois is starting extensive renovations on the interior of State Farm Center on Wednesday. If it plays in the NIT or CBI, it will have to play its games on the road even if it's higher-seeded. ... Michigan entered the game averaging just 14.7 fouls per game, the fewest in Division I. It was second last season at 12.7. ... Fighting Illini G Kendrick Nunn was named Freshman of the Week in the Big Ten for the second consecutive week. Nunn averaged 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last week in wins over Nebraska and Michigan State, making 5 of 8 3-pointers.
View Comments (25)