Published November 20, 2014
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 points and Evan Smotrycz added 13, helping No. 22 Michigan remain unbeaten at home with a 70-61 win over Illinois on Sunday.
Trey Burke added 14 points for the Wolverines (19-7, 9-4 Big Ten), but it was Smotrycz and Hardaway who provided a big lift by shaking off their shooting slumps in the first half. Hardaway entered the game shooting 19 percent from 3-point range in conference play. Smotrycz wasn't much better at 24 percent, but they each went 2 for 2 from beyond the arc before halftime.
Brandon Paul led Illinois (16-9, 5-7) with 21 points and Tyler Griffey added 18. The Fighting Illini have lost six of seven and are on the NCAA tournament bubble despite wins over Ohio State and Michigan State.
Hardaway's poor outside shooting and Smotrycz's ineffectiveness have been concerns for Michigan, but both players were sharp Sunday, especially early. Hardaway gave the Wolverines a 10-8 lead with a 3-pointer from the left wing, and he later rattled in a shot from the baseline — after Smotrycz had stolen an Illinois pass — to make it 25-20.
Smotrycz made a nice backdoor pass to Matt Vogrich for an easy basket, then added a 3-pointer of his own to make it 30-21. Michigan was ahead 37-31 at halftime and pushed the lead to double digits early in the second.
It was 53-44 after Paul made a 3-pointer for Illinois, but Vogrich connected from long distance for the Wolverines and Jordan Morgan scored to put Michigan up by 14.
Illinois went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead in half, but Morgan broke up Paul's pass into the post, and Hardaway made a layup in transition to make it 60-51.
Michigan has won back-to-back games for the first time since beating Wisconsin and Northwestern at home in mid-January. The Wolverines also improved to 14-0 at Crisler Center this season.
Michigan trails Big Ten co-leaders Michigan State and Ohio State by a half-game atop the conference and will try to avenge a January loss to the Buckeyes next weekend in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines don't play again until then, so the home crowd began chanting "Beat Ohio!" at the end of the game.
Illinois center Meyers Leonard, who at 7-foot-1 had at least a 5-inch height advantage over every Michigan starter, was in foul trouble early and finished only with five points, although he did have 12 rebounds. The Illini had 14 offensive rebounds to Michigan's six but couldn't take advantage.
Zack Novak scored 12 points for Michigan.