Michigan clinches Big Ten crown with rout of Illinois
Champaign, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Nik Stauskas netted 24 points as the 12th- ranked Michigan Wolverines clinched their first outright Big Ten regular season title since 1985-86 with a dominant 84-53 triumph over Illinois at State Farm Center.
"We came with that mindset, this was our championship and we wanted to win it," Stauskas said.
Stauskas hit a career-best seven 3-pointers on nine attempts for Michigan (22-7, 14-3 Big Ten), which shot 16-of-23 from distance as a team in its fourth straight win. The 16 made triples matched a school record, set earlier this year in a win over Houston Baptist.
Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III added 15 and 13 points, respectively, with Derrick Walton Jr. contributing nine points, seven rebounds and a game-high five assists.
Heading into the contest, Illinois (17-13, 6-11) had held four straight opponents under 50 points. The Wolverines had 52 points at halftime.
"Their kids made shots," Illinois head coach John Groce said of Michigan.
Rayvonte Rice had 16 points to pace the Fighting Illini, who saw their three- game winning streak come to a blinding halt.
Michigan quieted the rowdy Senior Night crowd right off the bat, with all five starters scoring before the first media timeout. Kendrick Nunn had seven by himself, however, including a 3-pointer that hit every part of the rim before falling through, to keep Illinois within striking distance.
But then, the Wolverines found the range. Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht came off the bench and provided nine quick points via the 3-ball, with the former hitting a pair of triples during a 19-4 run.
Michigan's lead grew to 22 late in the first half after a pair of Robinson free throws, but Jon Ekey's layup sparked six straight points for the Illini. Robinson ended the spurt with a trey from the top of the key, his first since Feb. 11, and Stauskas beat the buzzer with an NBA-range triple to restore the 22-point margin.
Michigan shot 11-of-14 from the arc and 67.9 percent overall during the opening 20 minutes.
Rice's three-point play highlighted a 9-1 Illini surge that spanned nearly five minutes during the early portion of the second half, but LeVert and Stauskas hit back-to-back 3s to remove all hopes of a comeback.
The spread swelled to 76-43 at 5:44, which was Illinois' largest deficit of the season.
Michigan has now won six straight against the Fighting Illini ... Michigan closes out the regular season with a home test against Indiana ... Michigan center Jon Horford grabbed 10 rebounds ... Nunn scored 14 for Illinois.