For the first time in 17 years, the Michigan Wolverines basketball team left Assembly Hall as winners.
Illinois hosted the #16 ranked Wolverines in their last home game of the season tonight and also their Senior Night, though their only seniors are reserve point guard Sam Maniscalco and walk-on guard Jean Selus. For the second straight game the Illini started off trailing 5-0 from the get go, but tonight they couldn’t come back from it. Junior guard Brandon Paul hit a three-pointer to even things up at 14-14, but Michigan answered quickly with a three from guard Trey Burke and they never looked back en route to a 72-61 victory.
Illinois big man Meyers Leonard lead the Illini with 18 points and 9 rebounds, in an emotional game for the sophomore. Before the game, Leonard shared an embrace with his brother Bailey, a US Marine, who surprised him at the pregame shoot around after coming home from the Middle East.
Brandon Paul added 15 points of his own on just 4 of 11 shooting, and freshman point guard Tracy Abrams added 12 points. Junior guard DJ Richardson continued his inconsistent season with just 6 points on 2 of 11 shooting, 2 of 7 from three point range.
The Wolverines were lead by Tim Hardaway, Jr., who also has been inconsistent in 2012, with 25 points and 11 rebounds, missing just one field goal all night. Trey Burke added 21 points while him and the Wolverines shot 46.7% from the field on the night.
The loss drops Illinois to 17-13 and 6-11 in the conference, ending any hopes of getting an at-large bid in the tournament. The Wolverines improved to 22-8 on the year and 12-5 in the conference, while keeping them in the hunt for the Big Ten title. If the season ended today and the Big Ten tournament started tomorrow Illinois would be the #9 seed.
Illinois travels to #15 Wisconsin for their last regular season game of the year on Sunday at noon on the Big Ten Network.