Horton = Sun
Michigan 72 Illinois 64
Down four at the half, Daniel Horton went supernova. Seriously. If you'd placed a generator on him last night he could've powered Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. (at right: Daniel Horton goes off on Illinois)
Here's his summary: Horton scored 39 points. That was the most any Big Ten Player has scored all year. What's more impressive is that Horton scored 39 against the fourth best scoring defense in the COUNTRY. Even better, he scored 25 of those points in the SECOND HALF. He went five of seven from three, and was a perfect eight for eight from the free throw line. Finally, he scored Michigan's last eight points, six of them on free throws.
Screw diamonds, planets are formed at those temperatures.
While it would be easy to say it was all Horton, and most of it was, he did have help. The inside presence Michigan has never consistenly had showed up last night. Graham Brown pounded on Augustine all game, failing to score a point, but grabbing 10 rebounds and being a thorn in the side of the Illinois big man. The biggest surprise was Courtney Sims. Sims scored 11 points, including going 5 for 5 from the line. He was the only Michigan player other than Horton to score in the last nine minutes of the game. He dished out four assists and grabbed eight boards in 30 minutes of playing time. His dunk with 3:30 left brought the crowd to its feet, and when he made the free throw after the foul, you could see the whole building start to shake.
Another standout player was now-mono-free Jarret Smith. Smith played just 15 minutes, but delivered 9 points and dished out two crucial assists down the stretch. The first was a bullet pass from just inside half court Smith threaded between two Illini that found Petway alone for a monsterous slam. His second found Courtney Sims for another slam plus the foul with 3:30 left in the game. The kid has a flair for the dramatic. While he was on the court he allowed Horton to catch his breath by taking the reigns of the offense.
Michigan did everything we've expected of them since they topped MSU and Wisconsin in back to back games. They played defense. They caused turnovers. They ran the court. They made great passes. They dove for loose balls. They wanted it more. (at right: Daniel Horton ices the game)
Michigan's bench outscored Illinois 13-0. They won the rebound battle. More importantly they played solid defense. Horton, on top of turning into a Pheonix, was glued to Dee Brown all night holding him to 8-19 shooting. Graham Brown pounded on the more athletic Augustine the entire game until fouling out with about a minute and a half left. Sims played hard too, forcing Augustine away from the basket and fronting him every chance he got. Michigan held Illinois to 46.6% shooting for the game. Even better, they held Illinois to 28.6% shooting from behind the arc, a testament to Michigan's guards and forwards contesting every shot and fighting through the screens and picks to get to their man.
What made the game even sweeter was the bullsh#t Bruce Weber pulled before the game, and the obnoxious Illinois fans that ESPN couldn't seem to get enough of. A chef's hat? Gimmie a break fat boy.
Michigan now stands at 8-6 in the Big Ten and 18-7 overall. Mark Synder at the Detroit Free Press seems to think Michigan punched its dance card last night. I'm close to agreeing with him, but one more win would erase any doubts.
Ohio State is next and then Michigan closes against Indiana at home.
Amadu Ba was suspended for 1 1/2 games for his altercation with a MSU student. He should be able to play against Ohio State.
What was up with the Illinois students "sneaking" in to the game? Buy a ticket. Go to the game. Act like you've been there. "Hiding" your god-awful orange t-shirts under a yellow Michigan shirt didn't fool anyone. Be a man, show up with your colors on. Take the abuse and dish it out, but don't act like getting into the game required any effort or trickery. Jackasses.....
How sweet was it that ESPN showed the 1989 Michigan/Illinois Final Four highlights towards the end of the game? I bet that dragged out some painful memories for Illinois fans. Nothing like watching your team lose twice on the same telecast.