Mar 1, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall. Michigan won 72-61. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball -- Michigan at Illinois -- No Beauty Contest But A Much Needed Win

Posted at 6:00am — 3/2/2012

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball — Michigan at Illinois — No Beauty Contest But A Much Needed Win

Michigan had not won a men’s basketball game in a month of Orange Moons in Champaign, Illinois. A somewhat ugly and frustrating game ended with the desired result for the Blue.

This weekend sees three teams with a chance at a shared title, or one team, Michigan State, may hog the entire trophy.

But regardless of what happens in the Ohio State/Michigan State game, Michigan must take care of its end. And that will not be an easy task as Penn State enjoys home court advantage, senior day, and Michigan must travel with little rest and preparation. The latter factor is very important as Beilein preparation is Michigan’s best ace in the hole. Michigan must play more aggressively and with more passion getting to the ball. Michigan must also shoot well, as against Illinois, and not make so many careless turnovers.

Thursday’s game against Illinois was again a three act opera. The first part saw Michigan take care of the ball and shoot very well, with few wasted shots. The second act was one of wilting and focus, as Michigan took shots not as good as the first part of the game and gave Illinois the ball on several bad turnovers. During this stretch, the inside defense disappeared totally as the height of Illinois easily scored from close range.

But when Michigan was reeling, Illinois went cold, an all too familiar scene for Illini fans this season. Illinois stopped getting the ball inside at will, Richardson missed a couple of opportunities and Paul could not carry the team to the finish line.

This Illinois team is a true enigma; Richardson, Paul, and Leonard are very good players. But like Michigan, the Illini also showed weaknesses that have lingered like fungus. The ball handling was not bad tonight for the orange, but Michigan put little pressure on the ball. Stu Douglass did a nice enough job on Paul that the damage was minimal. Richardson hit two big wide open threes when Illinois made a run, but later missed shots that could have put the Illini on top. Michigan did a nice job on offense, sans the silly mistakes.

Hardaway got the big stroke back and that may have been the difference in the game as Stu Douglass missed some wide-open threes in the second half. Burke played well and commanded the game. Interestingly Illinois only doubled Burke on top a few times, a strategy that helped Purdue to an easy win. Michigan over dribbled on occasion but for most of the night ran an efficient offense capped by shots going in the hole at a good clip.

It will serve Michigan well to play much better against Penn State. Even if the Spartans beat Ohio State, a Michigan win regardless of the OSU/Michigan State game, according to media sources, would give Michigan a second seed. A second seed looks much more favorable than a third or fourth upon looking at the tourney board.

Michigan is a team that has not played well for three days in a row. So a bye and a favorable match up in round two would benefit the Wolverines more than Michigan State or Ohio State.

The conference title is still a hope, but Michigan needs more than hope in its last game, the team must win. Michigan now stands at 22 wins, a figure given in the earliest preview as the top end predicted by GBMWolverine for the regular season. Twenty-three is now a really nice number for many reasons.

Video Highlights:

Michigan Head Coach John Beilein press conference at Illinois 3-1-12

Watching this highlight from Illinois site make you think Illinois won by 20 .. lol

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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