Final Horn: Michigan 78, Illinois 68

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan started shaky on the road against Illinois and turned the ball over ten times in the first half, but bounced back in the second half to leave the State Farm Center with a 78-68 victory. Caris LeVert notched a double-double with 22 points and 10 assists while Mark Donnal led the Wolverines with 26 points and nine rebounds to help the Wolverines start the season 1-0 in league play.

Player of the Game: Mark Donnal

Michigan’s redshirt sophomore big man played the game of his career against the Illini. Donnal finished with a career-high 26 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks and two steals in the win. He was the third big man off of the bench, but he played physically and finished drop-off passes from Michigan’s guards consistently. Donnal’s offensive production carried U-M early and late and his help defense and offensive rebounding (four offensive boards) was just a bonus.

It Was Over When

The Wolverines thought they were on their way to an easy victory when Caris LeVert buried a step back three with 4:15 to play to put Michigan up 71-57 and Mark Donnal drew a charge on the ensuing offensive possession, but Illinois had one more answer left in the tank.

A couple of sloppy offensive possessions and big shots by the Illini cut the Michigan lead to seven points with under two minutes to play before Derrick Walton banked in a three-pointer with a minute to go to stretch the lead back to double-digits.

Room For Improvement: Turnovers

Michigan gave the ball away on 27% of its first half possessions and 21% of its possessions for the game. The 10 first half giveaways led to 14 Illinois points and didn’t just bog down the Wolverine offense, but killed the defense. To its credit, Michigan improved in the second half with just five turnovers.

Turnovers haven’t been an issue for Michigan this season, it ranks fifth nationally in offensive turnover percentage, but the step up in competition caused at least a few headaches for the Wolverines.

State of the Game: Three-Point Shooting

They say that teams live or die by the three-pointer, but for Michigan it was able to survive without the long distance shot and thrive with it. The Wolverines were just 3-of-10 from three-point range in the first half, but went 7-of-14 from downtown in the second half. Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, Duncan Robinson, Mark Donnal, Derrick Walton and Aubrey Dawkins all knocked in a triple in the second half.

Three-point shooting also told the story for Illinois, which made 46% of its first half threes and was just 3-of-12 from long distance in the second half.

Four Factors:

ill-four factors
  • Tony DeMaria

    Good promising W. Illinois is not going to contend for the Big Ten title but any BIG win on the road against a non-bottom feeder is a solid win in my book!

    • Champswest

      Right you are. Look what happened to MSU at Iowa and Maryland down big against PSU. All road wins are big.
      Great game for Donnal, personal highs in points, rebounds and blocks. If he can produce half of those numbers per game, it would be huge for us.

  • bobohle

    Great win. I think Donnal showed he deserves the start against Penn St. When we start playing defense in the first half of games we will really be good.

  • Amaizeman

    Glad to see Donnal with such a great game — A critical improvement in one of Michigan’s lacking categories, especially going into Big Ten play.

  • Tuff Enough

    They took that red shirt sophomore title away, he is now considered a JR.