For the second game in a row Coach Beilein tweaked the starting line up. Against Wisconsin Zack Novak was added to the lineup in place of Jevohn Shepherd. Against Illinois Laval Lucas-Perry made his first career start in place of Stu Douglass.
This was a critical game for Michigan since they were coming off a home loss to Wisconsin and Illinois was coming in riding a 7 game winning streak and fresh off a road win at Purdue.
DeShawn Sims got things started for Michigan with a 3 pointer and that kicked off a barrage of Michigan 3 pointers in the first half. Michigan was up 16-9 early and had already nailed 4 triples (Sims twice, Lucas-Perry, and Novak).
Illinois responded by going on a 13-2 run and taking a 22-18 lead. Kelvin Grady ended the Illini run by draining a 3 pointer and moments later he found Zack Gibson for a lay up.
Illinois stretched the lead out to 29-23 and 31-26 and they were making just about every shot they threw up.
Zack Novak ended the first half with an 8 point flurry including two 3 pointers.
The hot shooting Illini led 39-38 at the half thanks to shooting 59% from the field. Michigan kept it close by drilling 8 of 18 on 3 pointers.
Michigan came out in the second half with some fire and Manny Harris stoked the flames when he blocked a Mike Davis dunk attempt.
Michigan finally took the lead back at 48-46 courtesy of a Laval Lucas-Perry triple. The two teams slugged it out for the next several minutes with the lead changing hands numerous times.
Zack Gibson entered the game when Zack Novak was bloodied after he banged heads with Alex Legion (the cut required 6 stitches). Gibson sparked a game closing run for Michigan when he drilled a 3 pointer and followed it up with a block on the other end. Laval Lucas-Perry made a key lay up for Michigan with the shot clock expiring that gave Michigan a 64-62 lead they would not relinquish. In fact Michigan closed out the game with a 12-2 run and some clutch free throw shooting. Michigan won the game 74-64 and had 5 players score in double digits lead by Manny Harris who scored 16 to go along with 6 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Sims added 13 points and 9 rebounds. Lucas-Perry scored 13 and dished out 5 assists. Zack Novak scored 11 and Zack Gibson 10.
Inside the numbers: Michigan had 18 assists on 26 made field goals and only 8 turnovers. Michigan had 6 steals and 3 blocks in the game. Michigan shot 11-27 on three pointers. Illinois edged Michigan on the boards 33-30.
Road to 21 wins: This was a game I had marked as a win. Michigan has yet to lose one of the games I projected them to win and they have won 2 games that I did not project them to win.
Notes: Laval Lucas-Perry has scored double digits in all 5 of his games.
Zack Novak did return to the game after getting stitched up. He was wearing the #11 jersey because his #0 jersey was blood stained.
Quotes: John Beilein: “I mentioned to the team, one of the biggest plays might have happened at halftime as DeShawn Sims really showed some great leadership. He wanted to win that ball game and his passion was terrific.”
Zack Novak: “My job is to hit the threes and my teammates are finding me open. They’re driving the ball and I just move to the open spot. They find me and I knock them down.”
Bruce Weber: “They’ve got a good group and he’s got his system in,” He’s spreading you, playing small ball, and he puts you in a bind. He’s done a nice job here.”