Illinois-Michigan Preview

The Associated Press

Despite being very up-and-down recently, Michigan couldn't be any more consistent at home.

The 22nd-ranked Wolverines will try to improve to 14-0 at Crisler Center on Sunday when they meet slumping Illinois.

Michigan is coming off a trying stretch in which it played five of six games on the road. The Wolverines (18-7, 8-4 Big Ten) have alternated wins and losses over the last nine games, but will try to end that trend following a 62-46 victory at Nebraska on Wednesday.

Coming off a 64-54 loss at No. 11 Michigan State in which it shot 39.6 percent, Michigan hit 52.2 percent against the Cornhuskers and went 11 of 24 from 3-point range. Zack Novak scored 14 points, Stu Douglass added 13 and Trey Burke had 12.

While they've been inconsistent on offense, the Wolverines have maintained a high level of intensity on defense, limiting their last seven opponents to an average of 59.9 points. They held Nebraska to 15 first-half points on 21.7-percent shooting.

"I think the game is a lot about our defense," coach John Beilein said. "Stu Douglass and Zack Novak really buy into playing defense and that's not always the case for guys that are seniors. ... That sort of sets the tone for our team."

Michigan generally plays its best defense in Ann Arbor, where it has won all 13 games for its longest home winning streak in a single season since opening 15-0 there in 1985-86. The Wolverines are holding opponents to 54.1 points per game at home, where they play three of their next four.

"After playing five of six on the road and coming out 3-3, I think there's a lot of hope that we can finish strong, but you never know," Beilein said.

After the Wolverines host the Illini, No. 3 Ohio State will visit Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. will try to get things going after struggling the last three games. He's averaged 7.7 points and shot 22.9 percent during that stretch, going 2 of 17 from beyond the arc, but still leads the team at 14.3 points per game.

Illinois (16-8, 5-6) is trying to get back on track, having lost two straight and five of six. The Illini fell 84-71 at No. 23 Indiana on Thursday to drop to 1-4 in conference road games.

After trailing most of the way Thursday, Illinois pulled within three points late, but the Hoosiers went on a 13-4 run to put the game out reach.

"We're close," coach Bruce Weber said. "We've just got to see if we can connect it all together."

D.J. Richardson had 19 points and Meyers Leonard scored 15 of his 17 in the first half.

Leonard fouled out for the third time in six games, and the 7-foot-1 sophomore has picked up at least four fouls in six of nine. He was limited to 12 minutes in the second half Thursday.

"He lost his poise," Weber said. "It's part of growing up. Learning to be a big man in the Big Ten."

Illinois had won four straight games against Michigan before a 60-55 loss in the Big Ten tournament last March.

The Illini are 3-2 against ranked teams, but all of those wins came at home.

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